Table Mounted Sharpener. Image Credit: HBR.

When we talk design, we consider the connections between form and content.

There are near endless possibilities for shaping form and manipulating content when designing products and services. The role of art, in innovation design, is to lead to the creation of the right questions whose answers would most desirably further the attainment of imagined or desired outcomes. This is done principally through the practice of the design concepts of Learning by doing and thinking with your hands.

This concepts can be observed best in raw forms by watching kids take part in building play. when kids attempt to build things they have never built before, they exhibit the most uninhibited disposition to learning by making, and building to think. Because kids are less inclined to be embarrassed by failure, they are willing to present their works to their peers or whosoever cares, at any stage of development. This is a particularly important trait for a designer to have; for so many reasons.

  1. With the kids, there is still the pure trait of genius which lets them be artists without any apologies or fear of criticism. This type of open mindedness, is needed by the designer, so he does not stop when a bad prototype gets a poor review. The designer must in his design thinking mind always remind himself that every product is a work in progress; and is only ever complete enough to effectively meet current desires and needs. With this sort of thinking, the designer always keeps an eye out for any possibilities to improve the design.
  2. When designing non-physical products, like processes, experiences and services, which require series of interactions over time; the designer like the kid knows the best way to get ahead with these sort of design would not be “build play” rather, the best way forward for this sort of design is the “Role play” approach. As with build play, the designer knows they must keep adapting, playing and modifying both their “role play” and the “stage” until they get to the desired experience or outcome.
  3. There is no question about design being art; rather, the question is, what sorts of art can design be. Being that design itself is designed; one can safely say that design is the sort of art that creates solution seeking questions; the answers to which could be used to solve many and any types of problems. The kids playing analogy I have based in this exposition is ideally most appropriate because design thinking and design in general, at the best and highest levels, demands the type of uninhibited objectivity kids exhibit when they play exploratory plays using materials which they do not so much understand.
Image credit beatgoesondotcom

One way or another, we are all designers at heart; the problem is how to tap into our innate design abilities and regain our design mind flow which we all manifested at earlier ages. If we can find this core in us which is usually buried by the many wrong experiences of growing up; we will not only be able to design great solutions, we will begin to much more appropriately appreciate the value of design, and understand how to better give feedback on works in progress.

Understanding the best way to give feedback on design solutions works in progress, is a skill which investors in the exploration of design solutions, must imbibe, so as to gain the deep patience skills sometimes needed to wiggle through many prototypes and come out with great product solutions. Often, when one is not conversant with the process of rapid prototyping which design work can sometimes require, one can easily begin to have doubts about the efficiency of the process or the competence of the designer.

In contemplating the value of Design, I suggest we see the final product as a diamond ring. Diamond rings, like design, are costly for two reasons.

  1. They are rare.
  2. They go through a whole lot of “shaping to perfection” before ending up as a single final product. 

Shawn Eneje, Chief Learner/Principal Partner, Hofti Ltd.