Thursday, April 30, 2009

Defining the design arena: Join the ‘design umbrella’

article source: EDTI (European Design Training Incubator)
Recently, at design innovation, we were looking for new trainers to talk about the different design domains. My first question to the candidates was, who is a designer? Only half raised their hands. To my surprise, apart from artists or art historians, the others who kept their hands down were graphic designers, fashion designers or interior architects, people we assume to be designers.

It means that designers themselves do not know they are part of the design business. I’ve heard many times designers complaining about clients who don’t know what design is. How do we expect a client to know what design is if designers themselves don’t know? How therefore can we expect someone to buy design services or expertise? This confused situation has direct economic impacts in terms of clients not using designers.

Defining design domains does not mean restricting creativity. It just helps outsiders to apprehend what design is, who to call and for what services. It helps design businesses and client satisfaction. Health-care (designers love comparing themselves to doctors) is a huge area of expertise: doctors, surgeons, paediatricians, dentists, anaesthetists, general practitioners, orthodontists and many others. We, as clients, know which door to knock at if we have a cold or a broken leg. We are aware there are different doors but we know they are all doctors. Why can it not be the same with design? All designers should know they are ‘designers’, and they should know how to position themselves on the design map. This should be communicated to clients to understand the scope of design.

While developing the EDTI surveys, we faced the question of listing design domains. It sounded easy and obvious but it ended up in lengthy debates. The question was not that easy. Nevertheless, we finally came up with a list of 7 main design domains, some 40 sub-domains and close to 200 sub-sub-domains. Is this the final list of design domains? Most likely not but it might become a standard or a foundation for a future standard. Comments on the list are invited.

All designers, design schools, design associations and design organisations could gather under a common ‘design’ umbrella and use a common language and organisational structure for design disciplines, design domains or design categories. This would be a huge step towards the development of the design and creative industries. At an individual level, it would be a huge step forward in each designer’s career development.

Thierry Van Kerm
EDTI co-ordinator

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