Can anyone design? Should they?

Rambles for reflections or potential change. What's your stance on the topic?

Can anyone design? Should they?

Joining me on my journey to reflect on random topics this weekend was Saf and Chiranjeet. Both of them creative geniuses of their own making.

We started by quickly defining our understanding of what "design" is.  Design is a verb and also a noun, but it is actually a process.  Design can be done for fun, for survival, for profit, to beautify, to create... Design may be confused with styling, but styling is seen more as a subset of design.  When you style, your intention is more to beautify, but it may not be solving a problem. Design focuses more towards solving problems.  Intention will be a differentiator when defining what design means.  Even if you are doodling, you are solving a problem of boredom perhaps, by organising a type of self-entertainment.

At core, design is a process humans undergo towards solving problems.

Across our conversation, we came to the opinion that "design" is actually a very man-made process, a human created word to describe what we strive to do that is similar but very unlike mother nature. Mother nature creates, and she celebrates perfection and flaws (also a man-made word to put everything into boxes, so we feel in control, =P). Everything within the natural world is organised chaos, and everything is perfectly imperfect in their own unique way.  However, when humans design, we want it to be organised,  to be perfect.  And as human, we find flaws in many of our own designs, as the word 'flaw' gives a negative connotation rather than being celebrated.  We combine knowledge and skills across different (man-made) fields, such as humanities, sciences, and arts, to ensure we "replicate" nature well, and to ensure it can be communicated and make sense to be passed on to another being.  We do so mostly because we think it will benefit the next generation and to ensure survival of our species (although we also think this is a way to be significant and leave our legacy, don't ya think?).

This discussion led me to think if most of our problems are self-created as well, because of how we categorise things into good and bad.  For example, "death" triggers a negative emotion, but is this due to the fact that we think sadness is bad, and death triggers sadness?  Hence our continuous search and research for immortality? Having this binary perspective to the world may have caused us more harm as we are trying to do more good.

Saf then brought up her feeling of the perfect design being unattainable.  That again came to the conclusion that it is us as human that has expectation of completion or perfection, which is nearly impossible to achieve. Chiranjeet then mentioned that it is cos we are human, feeling insufficient or incomplete is part of humanity. We will always try to solve our problems or other people's problems.  However, as we are designing "solutions", we may not have considered all necessary aspects, thus flaws in our design, because we have yet solve the problem for everyone.  It is still not perfectly imperfect or imperfectly perfect.

A good design is when the elements that make up the design cannot be taken out.

That lead into the question on what should be considered when designing. What are the aspects or values that should be considered before and during designing? Chiranjeet started by sharing that designers should think about the consequences of their design, what or who it will impact and affect. We then got into discussing about inclusive design and how that should be the way forward.  We also mentioned designing locally.  Wow, that said, are we going back to when we solve problems with just local resources? Will that help create more job opportunities? Will that be more sustainable as well?  With the information explosion catalysed by the invention of the internet and technological devices, everyone should try their hands in designing!

Design for the lowest denominator, as it is easier to make it applicable for a bigger population subsequently.

We are already observing a trend of people designing their own way of living, slowly breaking themselves away from capitalism (although Chiranjeet believes money will still exist, but in a different form perhaps). We have also read news of local kids designing contraptions and solutions for their local community, and many have no monetary intentions, and they have improve lives for their villages.  Furthermore, many of these local designs also taken resources minimally from mother nature and from their people, and yet managed to be valuable for one and for all. So yeah, start small, design for yourself first perhaps. If a young child can design something with their imagination for self-soothing, why can we do so too, for bigger purposes?

To end, unanimously, we concluded that everyone can and should design!  So, go forth and be child-like in designing!  So what are you going to be designing today?

TL; DR: Conversational rabbit hole that you can also think about:

  1. What is design?
  2. Is intention crucial to design? Can't one design without the thought to solve a problem?
  3. What have been the consequences of design? Have you seen impacts both positive and negative ones?
  4. So, what should be considered when designing?
  5. If so, can everyone design and should they?

Watch or listen to our rambles to get a feel of our thoughts, and comment if you relate or think otherwise.

p/s: Any organisation or people named in this podcast are solely train of thoughts of the speakers and we mean no harm to anyone or anything associated with it. =P