I was asked in my first year as an industrial design student what does a designer do by one of out lectures. It felt like a silly question at the time, as I had signed up for a four year course to learn this yet here I was being asked. It’s interesting how many answers there can be to this, it can be personality traits of strength and weakness, levels of creativity, understanding to how things work and pushing their limits or just practicing a set of chosen methods.
There are no real defining set criteria that we have as we are uniquely different as to how we perceive and visualize things. This is clear from the diversity of students, who all have the motivation and desire to design. We all have unique personalities and with this bring different passions, it’s easy to stay inspired and be creative all we need to do is look what other creative individuals are up to and our minds start to burst with possibilities. Essentially what we choose to specialise in just what we are most passionate about.
I remember back before choosing design when there are so many questions about were subjects and personalities and everything is positioned, like a giant map that design sits in the middle of art and science. It might not seem true at first as they are really different but it seems that a designer easily sits here and in their work you can see the science part coming through or the artist. The Science is the how will it work, what can it be used for, what should it be made from while the artist is more of the human side of how will people use it and the visualisation how will it look. Writing all this down it seems like there are many things going on inside our heads at once, which is true. This is based of an industrial design perspective as we need to factor in many interrelated things thorough our process. It may be slightly different in other design fields.
The one trait which a good designer needs is determination and motivation to work hard. Often a great idea comes at the last minute and can require a lot of intense work in a short period of time. I think all designers are also good dreamers who visualise things that aren’t around them yet, or how their lives and the lives of others could be improved. I don’t think designers ever stop working as projects are always going on inside their heads as well as new ideas, or at least if there is an off switch I haven’t found mine yet.
Another helpful trait but not a necessity is to have an open mind. This helps to overcome problems and to venture into the unknown. It also helps you to appreciate people and their diversity. As there are many different people out there it’s important to understand and have empathy with them, this offers advantages as normally we tend to design things we like ourselves as this is just human nature as we can’t design for someone else if we can’t think like them. There are many experiences that individuals will never encounter and a bit of empathy can help. Though at the same time I find it hugely frustrating when people get it wrong and think how they know what I feel/think when they just have never been in a similar situation and just think they have, therefore understand me.
Understanding our own limitations is a great characteristic as it allows us to seek help and acknowledge that we don’t know all the answers. Knowing to get advices whether it’s from a manufacture, engineer or even a friend can make all the difference. I think at times some of us like to think we can do everything as we are always taking on projects and learning new skills but a good piece of advice and asking the right question can help out like nothing else. I think a highly creative design process is something that can’t be done in isolation and as if it’s going to be different it needs to be multiple influences.
There is a lot more to say about this as designers are hugely diverse and we all think differently as to what makes a good designer and a bad one. There has always been much talk about this at my university as to what sort of skill set is needed to cater for the diversity of students and to build as many skills as possible, what ones can be self taught to a degree or need to worked on continually.
All I know so far is that design is constantly changing, like the world itself so it can only be beneficial if the designer is also constantly changing and hopefully improving. It doesn’t take long to get stuck and find that you are just relying on an old routine and you are going through the passes, but where is the energy and creativity in that?