Posted on: 30 June 2015
Design Will Save the World
In a recent interview with Zane Lowe of the BBC, Kanye West said that he believes that the world can only be saved through design.
“I believe that the world can only be saved through design. And when I say through design, I know some snarky classist editor is going to take that as ‘Kanye said the world will be saved with a couture dress.’ That’s not what I’m saying… the mentality behind design. Art is to be free. Design is to fix.” – Kanye West.
While it has become somewhat of a sport to mock Kanye West, I did take the time to listen to the original interview and I must say that I agree with what he said. Not kind of agree, I categorically agree.
What West is referring to is an approach to problem solving. Some may drape the new moniker of “Design Thinking” over it and parade it as something new, but in effect the concept is as old as design itself. When we look at the separation between art and design we see that art is something that defies boundaries, and exists more as an outlet of the artist’s creativity than for any other pragmatic purpose.
Anything can be Art
By my broad definition, anything can be art… and anything can be design. This is because my definition does not hinge on the object, but on the object’s purpose. A coat can be art, when its sole purpose is to express the creativity of the person that made it. We’ve all seen examples; coats that don’t keep you warm, shoes that only a crazy person would attempt to walk in, but there are also coats designed to protect firefighters from being burnt, or shoes designed to protect a construction worker’s feet and toes in a dangerous environment. The former is an expression of personal creativity, the latter a means of solving a problem.
There are all sorts of products out there that are supposed to make the world a better place. Products that make our lives easier, safer, more fun… or at least they are supposed to. In reality the great product graveyard is littered with apps, software, technology solutions and consumer products, which nobody wanted, needed or bought. When it comes to product design, the hard question we have to ask ourselves is “Am I creating art, or design?” Is the product that I’m making fulfilling a real need, or am I simply creating something that satisfies my ego and need for self-expression?
Not creating Art
At Akendi we help our clients ask themselves that question. We make sure that they’re not creating art. We conduct business requirements analysis to ensure that our clients are clear on what their objectives are. We conduct customer requirements analysis to ensure that there are people out there that will find value in the product that is being designed. We conduct user requirements analysis so that we understand what we need to do in order to make a product effective, efficient and satisfying to use. We do all this before we start to design.
Kanye, I too believe the world can only be saved through design, through a thoughtful quest to understand problems and the people affected by them before (not after, not during) we seek to offer a solution. That is design. Everything else is art.
So to the product owners, software manufacturers, architects, visionaries, makers and inventors (let’s not forget the CEOs) my question to you is: Are you going to save the world through design, or are you going to throw art at the world’s problems and see what sticks?