Take on design

There are few questions that I do ask myself on a daily basis. Questions like what does a designer do, what is a designer’s job, what is design… that kind of questions. They’re not out of place, as if I just start seeing them as something obvious, I’ll fail my customers. Yes, customers are half of design, and the other half is rest.

Design, at its core, is craftsmanship. All of it.

As with any profession, there isn’t just one thing that designer is. For example, we all know that there arevarious doctors and not just one. Similarly there arevarious kind of drivers. With designers we have industrial designers, graphic designers, service designers and so forth, and to top everything of the aforementioned have their own sub-categories as well. Yet all of them still are stillservice people, aiming to fill the needs of the people.

While I’ve been mostly going over how game designers fail to see what their customers want, this is very microscopic view of the whole deal. A designer should not just pay attention to the product nor to the customer, but the world at large. Green values have been in steady rise across the globe for a reason, and more traditional craftsmen do not really pay attention to this. Correction; artists do not pay attention to these values.

When designing a chair, a designer needs to attention to large amount of factors, but at the moment the largest factor is recycling. Only recently we’ve started to see chairs that have been designed to be completely recyclable. Traditionally you’d imagine the materials being reused through some sort of treatment, where metals are melted down as well as plastics into one black mess. This usually just reduces the use of the plastic on the long run. The recycling I mean is about creating a product which has parts that can be reused in other products as well without further modifications. This kind of use of existing parts is nothing new, but on the long run it has more green values than dissecting the materials and rebuilding them into something else. Naturally, to have this kind of products would mean that we’d need further standardisation across various designs, but not necessarily that all chairs would start look the same.

As such, designing is not to design for people, but for the larger world as well. Traditionally craftsmen have kept to themselves, trading methods and few tools around but not really unifying their overall philosophies on how things should be for the better of all. When we all can agree that it’s our job to take care of making things more friendly not just to the user, but the world as well, then perhaps we’re getting  where we’re at balance with all of it.

This does not necessarily  mean that all products would or should be the same in shape and appearance; in outer design. We have many different cultures that in themselves contain their own unique shapes and forms. We have multiple products that have the same function, but that are different in shape. Most likely your TV is different from mine, unless you have a 42″ Bravia.  As such the unified philosophies should not keep the designers from designing beautiful items with great detail, or sleek and clean outlook. Only the function should be the limit. Nobody wishes to have products that have shapes that take away from their function.

Enough with this green values lecturing. Design isn’t about saving the world, thou we can always help in that task.

Let’s go over some of those mentioned sub-designer “classes.” Graphic designer is a rather large area, as these people design everything from web pages to logos, from poster artwork to whatever you see inadvertising. Designers have been steadily replacing traditional artists in this regard as it should be. Artists can stay making paintings. Selfishness is not a virtue.

Industrial designers is even wider region, ranging from furniture designs to machine parts and so on. These people are much closer to the traditional craftsmen, as they need to know the materials, the ergonomics, the shapes and all those in order to work. Keep in mind that these people are working on designs that are aimed at mass production over everything else. Unique works are artisans’ field, and should stay there.

As such, the first prototype that is made will always be different, which then will be allowed to be produced in a limited fashion. After this production run further changes may be made until the final mass production model is made. Granted, limited production runs are more rare nowadays.

Service designer is where we diverge a lot from the traditional craftsman mould. Service design at its core is aiming to streamline services, to make them more efficient both to the customer and to the company while still having both sides’ interests appeased. In the best situation, a service designer manages to lower the costs that the service takes from the company and boostthe sales at the same time, and streamlines the experience for the customer for the better. Modern day technology is a wonderful thing that allows various kinds of use, and the best example I can think of are wireless library cards that register what book the card owner takes out. This idea has been put in use, but it’s been some time I heard about this, so you need to trust my word here. The idea is that a Wi-Fi system is used with the books and the library cards. The books have their own small Wi-Fi ID tag in them that gets scanned alongside the Wi-Fi tag in the customer’s library card. When they step out, the system automatically registers that this person has loaned this book. Fast, easy and simple. Removing the human element is rather unfortunate, but this way the customer has less hassle and the company can allocate their resources for gaining new books or restoring certain elements in the service they might have removed previously. These elements might include such small things as using allocated budget for new books to replace more broken ones, or simply creating more comprehensive archive.

Designers are many, and their work can be seen everywhere. The coda of beinga designer is from the people, to the people. This is the reason I’m so strict at making a clear distinction between the artists and craftsmen. An artist has a freedom to do what he wishes; they’re rock stars. Craftsmen do not have that luxury, and to become a craftsman is, or rather should be, the aim of all designers. This is why I get so worked up when these game designers act like rock stars rather than craftsmen. They’re not only doing disservice to the product, but to the world at large.

Design does stem from fine arts. Bauhaus, the first design school in Germany and to large extent in the world, was ledby artists that had that aforementioned coda as their philosophy. Ultimately designers need to understand arts in order to craft. Designer’s aim is just to take that knowledge and apply it so that it serves the use and people rather than art itself. Artists are the people who make political statements and criticize the society. Designers in this sense should take a colder approach to these matters, as ergonomics have no politics in them. Job’s a job, even if it is about making a poster about the communist party and how glorious they are. It’s designer’s job to take his knowledge and make it the best damn pro-communist poster he can muster. There’s nothing more to it.

Just like waiters, a designer is there to cater you. What we cater are chairs, tables, posters, bags, shells, vibrators, clocks, glasses, services, cover art and pretty much everything you have next to you. The appearance of the screen you’ve been reading this text from has been designed by someone. The keyboard as well. There’s a thought behind those items in order to make them work for your pleasure the best you can hope. We’re just people who take pride in our ability to create products that can make your life a bit easier and perhaps even more exciting. After all, if we didn’t then we’d be failing at our task and wouldn’t get paid.

Design is service of creating a product to the people as they see fit. This is not just my own personal opinion, but what design is. I do not wish to proclaim all other views inherently wrong. All views have their point, but what design is not is art. This is a clear distinction that needs to made of. Designers themselves, especially the older generation who have been living in the same light as artists should enforce this distinction as well.

I do admit that I might be completely wrong person to tell you what design is and what it is about. I personally see myself as an artisan first. Designer is nothing short of secondary position to me. I enjoy far more actually getting my hands there and working rather than sitting in a meeting and talking over with my co-workers about a logo design. I find it boring. It’s selfishness on my part, and I admit it completely. Nevertheless I still strive for the product my customer would like to see. Be it a simple logo made in a group, or a chair that I need to weld fourteen meters of square pipes into eight hexagons. As an artisan I’ve learned to design and do it, as a designer I’m merely learning to design and do a prototype. It’s a sort of contradiction, even thou the goals are the same.  Still, the artist in me is tied down, and my search for the perfect solution between getting my hands dirty and living in a business suit is still going on. Perhaps I’ll start studying law one day.

I have a request to my readers; please do no consider designers as any kind of artists or rock stars. Demand more from them, and regard them as people who are there to serve you and nothing more.

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