This week I participated on an AIGA Boston / Future M Panel on the topic of the Designer of 2014. There's been some great thought put toward this subject already that you can read on the AIGA web site. I figured since this was done so well already it might be interesting to take a different approach and talk about which designers we model. I asked my IDEO colleagues to send a list of their professional heroes and then made a Wordle from the list:
There are quite a few contemporary designers here, but the most popular names were modernists. As you know, IDEO is known for design thinkers, and no doubt Charles & Ray Eames and Buckminster Fuller were among the best. This made me wonder why "what was old is new again"? What changed in the design profession and in design education that moved us away from an optimism that we could design anything and placed us neatly in a discipline silo that we're trying so hard to move away from again? (BTW, this isn't a suggestion that we shouldn't be experts of a craft, it's more a commentary on our identity.)
Surley technology and population are at play here. As we've made more mediums and things we've needed greater specialization to design for them. Interaction Design wasn't a concept in 1980, now it's a discipline. The upside of this is greater collaboration of disciplines. Then there's just the math of it. The population is double what it was and the design profession has grown much more than that, so the odds of a "designer author" rising to the top of cultural awareness are just lower.
In addition to prodding my thoughts prior to the event, the joy of panels is getting to talk with people you've not yet met and witness the birth of new ideas. So thanks to my new friends for making it an enjoyable evening:
- Angela Shen-Hsieh, CEO, Visual i/o
- Jan Kubasiewicz, Professor, Head of Graduate Program in Communication Design, Dynamic Media Institute, MassArt
- Gary Koepke, Co-Founder; Executive Creative Director, Modernista!
- Marina Hatsopoulos, Angel investor, Windy Street
In association with the conference I recorded a short interview with friends at Hill Holiday that gives you a hint of what the evening was about.