Work smart and prepare for a changing practice

Filed Under: Tools and Resources

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 interactions.

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 Salaries.