A couple of decades ago, when you asked people about design, they usually assumed you were referring to products like furniture. Or fashion. Typically, Italy was a co-thought. It was normal to associate the term design only with high quality, exclusive and (for most people) overpriced products. Nowadays, design is considered to be a lot more ‘normal’ than we assumed, non-italic normal in fact. But that’s just perception, because all products were designed before they where manufactured. Even the most ugly, cheap and non-appreciated products may not be design, but they are designed. And there is an actual process for it, and there are people making a living from it.
So, design is more common. Some say it’s everywhere. I would agree if we’d start replacing architecture with building-design. At least everybody agrees that design is multi-disciplinary and not just a term for wannahaves. This changes our relation with design. When the Internet came, web design contributed to the popularity of normalizing the term design. Interaction with websites means interaction with design. Since the Internet is so big and for everybody, you would assume that this would do the same for design. That design is for everybody. But it is not.
Oh yeah, of course it is available for everybody – like the Internet – but we don’t use it that way. At least not like a tool, like for example to browse, to explore, to learn and grow. But it is time we should, and in time we will. And many agree with me. I recently read an article on how design can improve company performance. That design is proven to be a really important contributor in relation to customer satisfaction and financial performance. A lot of people and companies are unaware of this. Innovation experts and professors even claim that companies who see design as only a (the?) final stage of development, are not seriously seeking for growth.
As a designer, I should agree on this opinion right away and go on the streets and protest for more design. But it also makes me hesitant. I wonder: how can design have such a big impact on revenue streams, whilst a couple of years ago it was just a term for expensive furniture? And since design is so multidisciplinary, how can anybody start using it as a simple tool for improving development? Such articles love to use Apple as a reference to the importance of design when you aim for success. But design alone is not enough I’m afraid. We tend to forget that that vision – either having, or lacking one – plays an essential role in the implementation of design. And that is a fact, because design is also part of the development of products that absolutely-do-not-contribute-anything to the world.
So if design is a tool for improving development, vision is a tool for improving design. When we learn about the design development process, we miss the part related to vision. The term is too abstract, too human. We’re only just getting used to design being such a big part of our normal lives, why should we care about vision? Because it was the vision behind those crazy designs why we talked about it as design. If we rely on design to make companies, processes and our lives better, I suggest we look one level higher. Because good design follows a great vision.