Pick something close at hand that makes you think, “this is nice!” Take a few moments to feel its heft in your hand, its texture against your skin, perhaps how it smells, how it sounds when you tap on it; how it makes you feel when you look at it and what it makes you want to do with it. These experiences are all a function of its design.
Everything that you see around you that isn’t a person, a creature or a plant was designed, by someone, whether they did it knowingly, or not. It’s a big deal. It’s how we create the world of day to day experience. Yet, it’s only recently, in the last century or so, that we’ve had a distinct discipline that we call design and a category of people we call designers. Now you hear all the time that this, or that or whatever was done by design or that it was designed to achieve a certain outcome. But, what does that even mean.
What is design, really? And why on earth do we do it? What did we do before there were designers designing things in a deliberate, intentional manner? Can the answers to these questions help us understand how we should be doing it better, today? Over the course of a long career doing, teaching and consulting about design and it’s latest extension, design thinking, I’ve often asked myself questions like these. When I raise them with others – trained designers and non-designers alike – I get curiosity and interest, but few satisfying ideas. So a few years back I decided to seriously look for answers. I’m finally ready to share.
I’ve read a lot and talked to a lot of people – academic researchers, designers and deep thinkers – about the origins and evolution of us, the human species. About creativity, language, technology, art, craft and the long history of civilizations, culture and industry; about where we are on our creative journey today and where we might be headed. I’ve learned a lot that has surprised me. I’ve come away from it all more convinced than ever that design has an important, a pivotal role to play in where we are going, and how much we’ll like it when we get there.
I’ve turned it into a narrative that I call “Design. A Creation Story for the Anthropocene”, It tells the fascinating story of how design became design out of our well honed survival instinct that I call adaptive intelligence. I’ve put it into a presentation that includes insights into how design might continue to evolve and expand if we are to make it successfully through the challenges we face – presented by the huge imprint our technologies have left and will leave, on our psyche, our humanity, and on our planet.
In March I’m excited to be presenting it in Kyoto, Japan and Sydney, Australia where I hope to engage in a dialog about the story of design. I would be delighted if you could come and join the conversation if you live anywhere nearby. If not, I would love to arrange a presentation where you are; to people who share this curiosity, and understand the opportunity that lies in designing the world that we, and our children’s children, would love to live in.
This story is about design, but it isn’t for designers alone – because the way we design the future is too important to be left in the hands of a small group of professionals as indispensable as they may be.
I wrote a blurb about the talk I’ll be presenting in Kyoto and Sydney that you can read HERE.
In the coming months I’ll be posting more about what I’ve learned on my journey into the deep and rich past of humans designing things. Eventually I’ll be turning it into a book. You can be one of my readers – subscribe to my newsletter (in the right sidebar or at the bottom of the page). I’ll send out an occasional (like every 3 to 6 months) summary of writing that I’ve done.