Design = carefully crafting a set of stepping stones, to create the road to perfection.
Visualisation = the art of standing in dark cellars and seeing rainbows.
Interpretation =letting a simple message rise up out of the starting blocks, run a controlled race and on the home straight, smiling for the photo finish.
Execution = making forward travel along the arc of the rainbow. But also taking time out to write postcards from the edge.
Can you design a human relationship? Perhaps the best you can do is identify some key values that you both share, appreciate the overlap in those values and share a dream.
Can you design a professional working relationship? Companies set the ground rules, but can’t design in human ingenuity. Companies might set out to design end products and services. But it’s the values, courage and persistence that take the team from start to roll-out.
Are designers really a special breed? Enough books have been written about them and more than enough interviews conducted. Fashion designers, product designers, building designers, interior designers, graphic designers, wedding designers, syllabus designers, set designers, media image designers, life-skill designers.
People used to be artists and artisans. Craftsmen, repairers and builders. Now it seems that brands need to be nurtured by brand managers. Who themselves credit the power of their brand to the designer(s) behind it. Never mind the vital input from builders, scientists, test users and business strategists. Never mind the work of repairers to keep the product functioning.
How much ‘good design’ is simply people solving obvious problems in fresh, but unspectacular ways?
If style plays second fiddle to substance in most customer markets and if designers are mostly about style, while engineers & builders are about substance, why so much hype about style? Afterall, the best looking wrapping paper, clothing, makeup, graphics, plastic surgery or teaching method is still secondary to the substance or message beneath.
Finally, if we all solve problems, aren’t we all at least part-time designers (of solutions)?
Are people basically divided into two broad camps – the ‘fake it til you make it’ (the marketers & promoters) and the ‘keeping it real’ camp’?
‘Fake it til you make it’ is about projecting confidence, whether real or illusionary. It’s downside is arguably in making our social groups less cohesive and less real. ‘Fake it til you make it’ can be spectacularly successful – politicians, singers/rappers and A-list movie actors being examples of this. Ironically though, politicians campaign to solve real problems, rappers rap about their gritty own life struggle to success, whilst successful actors choose to star in movies that often have themes of real strength from overcoming adversity of some kind.
Some pioneering cultures have a phrase about ‘keeping it real’. Others talk about ‘keeping your feet firmly on the ground’ (unless you work for the weather service, the airlines, the navy, NASA or Virgin Galactic).The ‘keeping it real’ camp includes support groups, social workers, therapists, counsellors, teachers, coaches, trainers and assessors of all kinds. This camp arguably advocates that ‘struggling to succeed is simply walking the journey’ is what life is about and that being honest about this struggle helps us to build important bridges with fellow human beings. In the world of entertainment, reality shows are in theory about ‘keeping it real’, although programme directors inevitably choose hyping the truth over the reality, if if means improving the viewer ratings in a competitive industry.
What about in the field of design – which camp do designers fall into? Steve jobs said ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ In product design, great and successful designers don’t tolerate fake. They are obsessed with building amazing, perfection and excellence. In contrast, fine artists can excell at illusion in their art, folling the viewer’s eye into almost believing the two dimensional is actually the three dimensional. Or that the World shown within their art reveals a far more beautiful perspective on the World outside. Musical artists and actors generally want to create real. It’s the marketing staff of their companies that want auto-tune, edit and airbrush.
Whichever of the two camps a person falls into, perhaps real performance is still the key goal and ambition the driving force. Oscar Wilde famously said ‘all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.’ Life arguably isn’t about ‘suffer in silence’, ‘know your place’ and ‘mustn’t grumble’. It is about ‘be the best that you can be’, ‘dare to dream’, ‘give yourself a break’, ‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘recognise the perfect parent does not exist’, ‘respect yourself’ and ‘strength through adversity.’
Lastly, somewhere along the line, as we switched from selling the products of our labour to selling the services of ourselves, the ‘fake it til you make it’ mantra started to dominate, in business, in our romantic lives (as singles) and increasingly, everywhere else. How do we jolt ourselves out of that mantra?
Picture this. In my mind’s eye, the eye of the hurricane has the best view.
Developing a shared vision in advance (even if not completely clear), beats having the group having 20/20 vision in hindsight.
You have to stand back to see the wood for the trees. But if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do.
The best things and the worst things are often hidden in plain sight. So reach for the stars instead.
Social media relies on visual screens and filter screens alike.
Life isn’t measured by the breaths we take, but by the images (and moments) that take our breath away. That’s probably why we take so many photos.
The best way for a human designer to be inspired, is to see the beauty of nature first.
If we make and operate more trading markets, how can that solve some existing social problems in our communities?
In one example, creating a new product in the swaps market, we could swap bundled consumer poverty debt for public-body, impaired asset-liability (toxic/polluted land). That then gives a pool of almost penniless people (or a poor country heavily in debt), an asset instead of an unpayable financial debt. The asset may rise in the future, but in the meantime, as well as collectively paying the ongoing running costs, they can collectively pay an annual insurance premium to limit their downside risk.
From the public body’s perspective, they :
- alter their custodial obligations (the shape of the land borders they physically manage),
- minimise any controversy with their auditors on property, plant & equipment (PPE) impairment values,
- swap a physical liability for a financial liability of the same NPV,
- significantly reduce PPE liability volatility,
- avoid ongoing various running costs, relating to maintaining the physical asset, including; regular valuations, impairment reviews & access management.
The public body can then re-finance (against other unutilised collateral sitting on its balance sheet) the financial debt (interest rates) and match future income receipts against that debt in the normal way, to progressively pay down the debt.
In another example – derivative creation, can we split off the impairment discount from the unimpaired net value for a land or building asset? This idea may be of interest to the Housing Sector e.g. large Church & Council housing estate owners. The impairment value could be traded publicly, once derivatives representing it are created, perhaps to be known as ‘impairment value derivatives’ or IVD’s.
Thereafter, a fall in IVD value might occur, as the outcome of legal cases (relating to similar types of impaired physical assets held by other parties) establish payment liabilities on the owners of such properties. A gain in IVD value would occur, as investors speculate that impairment value attached to such IVD’s over time becomes excessive. And speculate that emerging new technologies make asset repairs & land remediation cheaper and more viable, causing a contraction in the impairment value. In the meantime, IVD shareholders could hedge their downside holding-risk (legal liability risk in particular), using insurance policies that cap the liability to themselves (effectively an insurance excess) and transfer most of it instead to the insurance industry.
Big Data and Big Data analytics are very topical at present in business writing. Start-up companies and multi-national corporates alike, try to exploit the data they generate to :
- gain customer insight,
- support a plan for blockbuster innovation,
- study history,
- run forecasting simulations,
- do virtual prototyping.
In government, senior policy makers talk about developing evidence-based policy, (to excuse inaction?), while waiting for the perfect set of evidence (data) to come along.
It may be that Big Data analytics gets somewhat over-hyped as the engine of progress, but that design, (for product innovation, or to design novel solutions to new business problems for which history doesn’t show us the answer) is at least as important for progress. Some examples of history not showing us the answer? Evolution generally (biological species, synthetic biology, business strategy) and the emergence of artificial intelligence in systems.
Design of course relies on a group of human techniques including; discussion, brainstorming, imagination, intuition, reverse-engineering, provocations, thought leadership and lateral thinking. In the main, they don’t sound very business-like, but try and deliver significant business innovation without them!
In conclusion, exploiting Big Data is necessary. Encouraging great design, aided by Big Data, is sufficient.