Tue Nov 30 2010

So what *is* a designer?

I originally posted the definition below as a comment to my post on the designer as investor. In the last few years I’ve been trying to convey how I see design with a lowercase “d” [1]. I believe the paragraphs below are a good attempt at defining the designer we need today, and the only one we’ll accept tomorrow.>This is 2010. The designer you want isn’t the guy that just knows photoshop and delivers .psd files (or the html-illuminated designer that delivers html+css). Design is more than meets the eye.

The designer you need today is different. He’s the guy that knows how to approach customers, figures out what they want (drawing from anthropology and ethnography), how to collect and analyze statistics, comes up with success metrics (drawing from real marketing, not bullshit marketing), design the right experience to meet business goals (ux and ui design). I am definitely talking about design with measurable, long term, possibly crucial results. The design that makes, or breaks a company.

I will add this too: the designer of today - and, I’ll say it, the future - doesn’t need a design degree (most don’t, as design degrees are for the most part stuck in the past). There are great designers in the bodies of CS guys (like me, Putorti and a bunch of others). There are great designers coming out of odd degrees - or flat out without one. This is not about formal education - it is about being T-shaped and, let’s admit it, being in touch with what people and the market needs. Sure, the design aesthetic is present, but it doesn’t take the lead.

If the paragraphs above describes you, get in touch. There are a ton of companies looking for people like you, and I’d be glad to pass along your information.


[1]: It would be disingenuous of me to say I’m the only one thinking along these lines. I’m (thankfully) not. I, and even my definition, stand on the shoulders of giants. Giants like Tim Brown (design thinking pioneer - Tim, start tweeting), Jan Chipchase (ethnography genius - I see him as a designer in many ways), John Maeda (whose words, more than works, are of great design inspiration), and many, many others.

There are also a number of companies that see design as more than meets the eye. Google, Facebook, Apple, IDEO clearly do - there are (thankfully) many others too. These aren’t huge names by chance, though. This is no coincidence.