The many faces of design

When most people hear the word “design” they think of graphic designers and artists designing logo’s or nice posters. We tend to think in a visual term. This is correct and not entirely accurate. Today, design has come to mean a number of different things but no matter the function, all types of design professionals draw from the same body of design language principles. And at the fundamental level, design is about solving human problems.

Organisations today, in a hyper-connected, always on world, now more than ever, need to solve problems from a human-centric approach. Not the old, cold, calculating and intensely impersonal corporate think that’s permeated modern consumerism. That approach is dead. For shareholders, corporations and most importantly, humans.

The many types of designers we see emerging;

Design Anthropologist: As a discipline, anthropology is only just over a century old. Many associate anthropology with old bones and old cultures. But it has become a rather multi-faceted and dynamically shifting discipline. From forensic and music anthropology to design anthropology, from ethnography to netnography. In design anthropology from my perspective it is bringing together technology, design, culture and human understanding. Design anthropologists must clearly understand technology and it’s role in today’s society and organisations.

Design Thinkers: The area of design thinking has been around for a few decades, but has only recently risen to a more prominent position in organisations. Today, it is taught in the top B Schools around the world. The design thinking process is highly collaborative and been proven time and again to have positive and profound impacts on organizations.

Systems Designers: A role that has also been around decades, but is shifting somewhat. Now, systems designers are also increasingly involved at a more human-centred level, especially in systems where humans can have significant impact. And as we all know, humans are rather good at being contradictory, which for systems thinkers, are often the biggest unknown.

UX/UI Designers: A growing and incredibly important role. A design anthropologist will often work closely with UX/UI designers. Their job is visual design as it relates to making products, software and such much easier to use. They fret a lot over button colours and placement of text and drop down menus…among many other things. It’s an incredibly important function in today’s digital world. UX/UI has largely sprung from the HCI (Human Computer Interaction) world.

Communications Designers: Not very well explored and a still evolving role. These are story tellers, but more than that, they design stories to work across digital and analog channels and platforms. They design how the story is shaped, defined and architected to be delivered into the world. It is a combination of public relations, investor relations and journalism woven into an art form.

These are some of the roles of design today. Design is at the heart of humanity, how we communicate, what we communicate. Design may largely replace marketing. Design has influenced humans since we began drawing on cave walls. Design lives in everything we do.

What are your thoughts?

More Stuff: Here’s a wee article on data silos within an organisation.

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