My advice to young designers is to build deep understanding of
the systems that define contemporary experience. The goal of
today's audiences is to interact cognitively, socially and
physically with complex cultural, technological and economic
contexts. Under these conditions, our role as designers often
shifts from the design of discrete, freestanding artifacts to the
design of tools and systems through which audiences and users
construct their own experiences. In meeting those challenges, great
form and strategy mediate the interactions between people and their
environment; design must be useful, usable, desirable, viable and
sustainable in accomplishing the goals people have for such
Designers, therefore, need to know about more than software and
visual invention. We need to understand how people perceive and
process information; how they behave in social ways; what they
value culturally; how they use technology and what they think it
means as a way of doing something. We need to understand how what
people want to do with information fits into the rest of their
lives and how such goals change over time. We need to work
collaboratively with experts in other fields, value research and
identify new places where design can have positive influence.
Young designers have greater opportunities to make a difference
than previous generations—the field is less hierarchical and more
diverse in its applications. Great opportunity, however, carries
with it great responsibility. We need to work smart and to prepare
for a changing practice.
This essay originally appeared in the 2010AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design
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“Be good at what you do and be nice to people.” I know
you’re probably thinking that it’s a no-brainer, but for many of us (and I’m
definitely one of them), this is easier said than done.
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