Design beyond design

How much do we trust design to make a significant impact on the success of our business and the bottom line. Quite a lot it seems. According to the Design Business Association, turnover growth was more likely in businesses that had increased their investment in design over the past three years. Conversely, those that decreased their investment cut their chances of growth.

Compelling facts.

The power of design is huge. I know what you’re thinking, of course he’d say that; he’s a designer. Well this is sort of true but I have reservations about two words in these last two sentences and they are ‘design’ and ‘designer’. Don’t get me wrong I love design but it has become to mean so little. “We can design you a logo for less than £200”, “Design your own kitchen”, “Choose from over 100 designs”, “Customise your design” — it goes on and on. Today, the world is full of ‘designers’ and ‘designs’. Design has become an off the shelf commodity. An effortless plug n play consumable.

I’ve always managed to distance myself from the label designer because I always felt that we did so much more. What sat behind the design always interested me more than the piece of design itself. The structure, the framework, the design thinking.

There are millions of designers out there doing fantastic looking work. You only have to look as far as Pinterest and Dribbble to see the beauty parade of work being shared, reshaped, repurposed and it goes on. However, scratch beneath the surface and it’s rare to see work that is underpinned or built on a big idea, a purpose or any kind of strategic intent.

As designers it is (or bloody well should be) our responsibility to look beyond and consider the purpose and function of our work and how it improves the experience of the user or audience.

The truth is that we design experiences.

A beautiful piece of furniture design is more than just somewhere to place your backside, it’s about ergonomics, comfort, visual aesthetics, a feeling of satisfaction. Every seam and stitch of a designer suit is considered not only for show but for comfort, confidence and quality. Wearing it is an experience. Uber is more than just a taxi app, it’s a 360 degree, value added digital brand experience.

Google has to be the benchmark when it comes to the ultimate brand experience. Whether it’s through a simple search or a voice request via Google Home the company mission ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ quite clearly sits at the heart of everything they do. It’s no coincidence that all of the touchpoint feel ‘googlesque’.

As designers our role is to go beyond the design.

So why is it that so many designers see their role as just to deliver design. As designers we need to demonstrate how we are real world problem solvers, creating memorable, significant experiences that improve the world of the user. If we don’t start believing our own hype then how can we expect anyone else to value what we do?

The only people we have to thank for the decrease in perceived value of design is designers themselves. We have driven the price of our own work down to literally a Fiverr and it’s now up to us to convince the world that this was a big mistake. A blip.

Experience design is four dimensional, it’s value is unmeasurable and it’s application is agnostic. Through design thinking we can solve a multitude of problems and now with AI, VR and voice we now have new, exciting interfaces to deliver engaging and memorable solutions.

So designers, stop doing yourself a disservice. Think big. Deliver bigger.


This article was written by John Lowdon, Creative Director at Vitamin Cornwall; a leading creative agency which specialises in nothing but delivers everything. They have also launched vitamincornwall.com/labs to help start-ups and innovators get their dream projects live, fast.

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