Anyone can design, even a kitten.
We wrote a book about kittens and design, here is the story.
Back in 2015 Janno Siimar and I decided to share everything we had learned about design with anyone who is interested in design. We wanted more people to learn "designer's way of thinking". So we launched Velvet Academy and offered a free course called "Design for non-designers." Calling our audience non-designer didn’t even make sense but there wasn’t any better way to explain what we wanted to do.
Inspiration from 'non-designers'
We received over hundred applications. People from different backgrounds accepted our invitation to learn about design. They trusted us. We managed to run a couple of courses, made many mistakes, and by doing so we were able to develop a point of view on how to introduce design to others. later Velvet Academy became the foundation for developing a new MA program in Design at the Estonian Academy or Art.
Inspiration from designers
Design is not only for designers and definitely is not owned by designers. We wanted to take this idea one step further and speared the word. So we decided to put together an article about it. We approached other designers from companies like Google, Facebook, IDEO, Microsoft, Twitter, Airbnb, and more. looking for inspiration. Our goal was to uncover the deeper values that make one a designer. At this point it was clear for me that we can write a book about this topic.
A design challenge
Like any other design project, we followed an iterative approach in writing - designing the content- of the book. The structure, the topics and the language used in the book evolved during the process. To validate the idea, I wrote an article in the same style for our friends at Froont team: Design user research explained for everyone . The reception was quite overwhelming. Even some designers have found the points and the language used in the article relevant. "We may be up to something here!" - a voice in our heads.
Fliss the kitten
We didn’t want to write another boring book about design, we wanted this to be fun and easy to read. So we reached out to Fliss the kitten. Not knowing what is expected of her, she agreed to join the project. "If I can learn how to think and do things like a designer then anyone can do it too," Fliss said. We gave Fliss a task: Design your way to the planet Mars. Then we asked her to share what she learned in her journey. Fliss turned out to be a little sweary, so we had to rate the book 16+. (Fliss, you bastard ...)
Giovanna Giuliano is an amazing illustrator who joined our team to help bring Fliss' story to life. This book would not be here without her valuable contribution. I also asked Ivan Marinkovic to be an editor for the book. Ivan is a super star copywriter and design enthusiast. His involvement helped to make sure that the book is easy to understand for everyone.
Making it happen
Like any other design project, the deadline for this project was pushed back about 10 times, more like 20 times. The cover, as an example, went through many iterations before we could finalize it. There were so many good humans who helped us with this project that I need another Medium post to just name them. This was, in fact, a team project with my colleagues at Velvet .
Being a designer has taught me to always question what I'm doing. There came a time when we were asking ourselves: Does this book even make sense? What if our ideas are too crazy?
I decided to approach Danny Stillion - my former mentor at IDEO - to ask if he would give me the honor to write a foreword for the book. Danny is a Partner and Executive Designer at IDEO and one of the pioneers in the filed of Interaction Design. Danny's thoughtful and considered foreword was a motivation to get the book out there and invite more people to the world of design.
Why did we do this again?
We wanted more people to learn about design. We can not claim that the designer's way of doing things always works. In fact we know that design alone is not enough to solve every problem that life throws at us. But we can use it as a way to keep learning, growing, and developing. There are, of course, many other approaches that have proven to produce equally valuable solutions.
If this book inspires a few people to approach problems slightly differently next time, then that's what matters.
Check out the book here: http://anyonecan.design/
If you want to support us then feel free to get yourself a copy of the book. If you are a student or someone who believes that you should not pay for the book, then let us know by email, we are totally cool with giving away some copies to anyone who wants to make planet earth a little bit better or has given up on earth and wants to escape to planet Mars.