Designer: Generalist or Experimentalist?

Designers are generalists.
This is a phrase I’ve heard (and used) over and over because it seems to be the most direct way to quickly describe the extensive gathering and learning, discovery process that we go through to understand our clients. Any given day we might find ourselves working on projects with clients from fields that are so diverse — like the corporate identity for a mining company in the morning and the design of a retail environment in the afternoon. Since we come in contact with so many different people, the only way to begin to understand each client and their project is to spend the time to learn about them and what they do. By being open receptacles for information we gather details that others may not see. This general knowledge gathering allows us to better understand the people we work with and in turn we are better able to make informed decisions throughout the design process.

The process of design decision-making is one that people commonly refer to as design thinking.
Design thinking — a process by which we work and come to our design “problem solved” solutions — is actually something that is both general and specialized. It is specialized because the act of making the decision is something that is tied to the individual designer and their personal perspective. Though the decision, once made, lives on it’s own, the act of making the choice comes entirely from the culmination of experiences that the designer has been through. The observations, exposure to certain sensations, and participation in other circumstances all add to the designer’s perspective of the world and, in turn, affect the way they make decisions.

Designers come packed with a lot of learned knowledge.
Our intuition is based on everything we have seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt and it is these things that help us in making design decisions. The broader our perspective, the easier we find it to understand new clients, projects or views. By exposing ourselves to new and different things we are turning ourselves into better designers and observers of the world. This is how we can continue to experience the world and make things to affect positive change that our clients and their audiences will feel and more easily relate to.

So, if you’re a designer, get out there and experience something new. Start a conversation with someone you don’t know. Hold an event. Travel. Learn a new skill. Try a new food. And watch these great finds on vimeo:

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