Human first, designer second

This is how I answered the question “describe yourself” when filling out a questionnaire to attend the 10th anniversary of the Do Lectures, in the uncharacteristically hot summer of 2018. Flippant, maybe, but something I wrote in the spur of a moment has come to occupy my mind when in conversation when I describe what I ‘do’.

Some context: yes I am human (obviously) and, yes, I am a designer.

More context: I have been a practising designer for over two decades now, but it is only recently that I have begun to realise what a wonderfully ‘human’ job design is. There is a skill and craft to design, and perhaps those things will eventually be swept up by the advances of A.I. or the Commoditisation of Everything™, but the one thing that won’t be taken away is being human. Of forging relationships. Doing something together, with our clients, for the better.

It’s about the input, not the output in the design process

For those of you unfamiliar with the design process, a really good designer comes in to listen about your problem before walking away to do the creative magic (insert designer cliché here). You then get into to the iteration and feedback loop, which is, by and large, where the creative magic happens. In order to avoid blindly sticking the tail on the donkey, you have to understand the problem.

In order to understand the problem though, a really good designer will ask questions, sit back, and listen — intently. Some people call it research, others call it discovery, we just call it listening. Listening is where the we find the good bits. The stories. The passion. The reason why someone gets out of bed in the morning.

Those stories, that passion, are why people rally behind your brand, product or service. While the human story has reached a point where we can climb aboard an aircraft and be on the other side of the world in less than a day, or be there virtually in less than a second, we still have the same hardware that our ancestors had. Where did they gather? Around the fire to pass on stories, and to pass on knowledge.

And, that is where I now find that best bits happen in the design process. In the talking, the sharing of stories, and, of course, the listening.

Not, in front of the computer…

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