Design’s Mid-Life Crisis

Design has evolved into more than an afterthought added to technology products one week before shipping

DRS Conference at the Design School in Umea, Sweden 2014

The real value of Design training transcends the ability to incrementally refine the shape of staplers, orange juicers and the myriad of objects owned by the world’s “10%”

It is generally acknowledged that as complexity in the world increases, there is a need for collaboration in order to create solutions to problems. Put in a different way: no one individual Designer can hope to have the skills needed to solve the problems that we are confronted with in society today. An excellent example of this was provided in the opening debate at DRS2014 — unfortunately, the elephant that remained in the room was that in order to “design” solutions in a field like synthetic biology, there is a necessary amount of domain knowledge that the design team must possess. It is naïve to think that design skills alone can lead to thoughtful solutions amidst such complexity. It is critical to work with people from different Design and other disciplines. Questioning which of these fields or professions is more important than the other is meaningless and smacks of insecurity.

Rather than continuing conversations that showcase this insecurity and demonstrate a lack of conviction (“ Please don’t tweet what the speakers say as they don’t believe their own words “. Really??) perhaps we collectively should focus on articulating the value that Design training brings to developing solutions to complex world problems.

To be useful in the future, needs to learn to articulate its value

The next international DRS conference will be hosted in Brighton, UK this year. Will we have the confidence to venture outside the status quo and address Design’s mid-life crisis?

Originally published at on March 8, 2016.

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