Design is now increasingly being recognized as a competitive advantage, however few outside the creative community actually know what design can provide besides the beautification of objects. To take full advantage of what design offers, businesses needs to know what design is and what to expect from designers.
By definition, "Design is a creative activity, whose aim is to establish the multi-faceted qualities of objects, processes, services and their systems in whole life-cycles." (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design). Design delivers along the lines of strategy, context and performance; with success metrics established by the design community itself and these metrics acting as lead indicators of a product's trendsetting and financial performance.
Designers are instrumental here, since they turn incremental and breakthrough innovative business ideas into concrete actionable plans for products, services and experiences. What, then, distinguishes a design expert from an average designer? Posing this question on eight highly regarded online social networks of creative professionals sparked over a hundred comments. These participants ranged from design educators, designers and engineers to managers.
Analyzing insights into what makes a designer an expert were structured along five criteria for experts taken from the field of decision-making. These criteria for design experts were:
Powerful distinctions of design elements regarding industries, their users and the surrounding culture. Understanding of their organization, technologies and design languages and knowledge of their users' social, psychological, physiological and ideological profiles. They understand their culture's values and beliefs, while influencing the users' attitude, behaviors and activities.
These distinctions enable expert designers to make objects beautiful within the perception of different users' five senses.
The designer also extends his ability to make powerful distinctions in his own and bordering areas, through extensive networks of other experts, vendors and clients.
Have knowledge of and ability to create new connections -- through the use of a design process, taking a design brief from direction to concept design and final product development. These designers know and have experience with a broad range of design languages and understand how to create new expressions though forms by balancing function with proportion, surface, details, material, texture and color.
They are familiar with the opportunities and limitations of combining these elements for mass production and a broad general knowledge and experience about life's phases enables them to see the big picture, creating an efficient cradle-to-cradle life cycle.
Possess a special skill -- enabling them to observe the world and see opportunities, by use of systems thinking, analysis and synthesis they create and prototype concepts. They investigate and communicate the products meaning to the user, as well as the users interaction with the product, service and experiences through simulation. This is done using sketching and storytelling, computer models, animations and rapid prototyping technologies.
A strong personality and organizational skills are also essential to manage a portfolio of projects and the ability to plan and make decisions about time, budget and quality of final deliverables is key.
Possess knowledge of the design field's history -- of what did and did not work and why. They understand the evolution of style, fashion and fads and can sense the context and underlying philosophy of current and upcoming trends.
Possess humility and the ability to be open to new learning opportunities. Designers are flexible, quick learners with a drive to improve human conditions. It takes a certain level of personal insecurity combined with a tenacity to produce consistent results.
Expert designers are equal parts business people, engineers and artists. They are the hubs of the product development world since they are responsible and accountable for the users' complete experience of an organization. Done well, a product integrates seamlessly with the users' lives and becomes meaningful to them and, in some way, completes them.