Thursday, August 25, 2011

Design forms it all - even Communication?

What is design? According to Wikipedia, it can be defined as "specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints; to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)". 

Short and sweet. But not really telling us much. Is it something that we know "when we see it"? Is bad design design at all without consistently successful end result? Is mass-production design? Is design only performed by certain individuals with professional ties- who gets to be "a designer"? Is a child´s sand castle design? Is design always art?

The dean of Aalto University´s School of Art and Design, Helena Hyvönen, has attempted to define some of the concepts related to this universe of design. In her speech ("Elonmerkki"), she dares us to look beyond traditional views and stereotypes. The time of strict categorization and authoritarian ownerhip is ending. Hyvönen talks of Designthinking, which is a new way at looking at the age-old concept.
Designthinking approaches the individual as an active creator, never a passive object. Individuals and usability move to the center of focus. In this regard, (good) design talks with the user, not to the user.

Hyvönen admits that the old ways of thinking inside organisations are difficult to break. When before design was considered something extra, separate from the actual product/service, it now needs to be incorporated into the entire process. Design has become essential in the final user experience, and part of the perceived value of the whole package. Simply put, we cannot ignore it. We need to cut the chains of the old school of thinking, and embrace the new, holistic and playful mode of "design-thinking".

As an example of the new joint process of creating design Hyvönen mentions today´s fashion blogs. People customize, tailor and express themselves through their own designs made with store-bought clothes, which they proudly display on their blogs.  The actual fashion designers follow the ideas, and make new design based on this fruitful communication. The circle continues. The ownership to design has become grey area. Everyone can be a designer and part of the process. In this way, design is communication. Communication is design. Design makes the world more understandable and controllable for the individual. Thus through design we create, and re-create our personality and place in the world.


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