Friday, 19 November 2010

The different roles of the designer and their value

The annual bbetween journal was published by Billy Blue College of Design and 2nd Road (both in Australia) in August this year. The topic was 'the value of design (thinking)' and there were many great contributors (check out the list here).

This year's bbetween journal cover

I submitted a paper about three (of the seven) roles of the designer I have been exploring in my PhD research. These roles were the designer as strategist, researcher and facilitator. The Dott 07 projects of Urban Farming, Design and Sexual Health (DaSH) and OurNewSchool were used to illustrate these roles of the designer and their value. If you'd like a read, download the bbetween paper here. Otherwise the key points were that:
  • The designer as researcher: Uses design research for inspiration, not only information, to inspire new ideas and opportunities;

  • The designer as strategist: Connects organisations to the real-life experiences of people to inform and influence strategic decision-making; and

  • The designer as facilitator: Adds tools to the facilitator’s toolbox to engage stakeholders and inspire their creativity to understand challenges and create innovative responses to them.
Having almost completed my PhD, I have seen that when we take a detailed look at the roles of the designer and compare and contrast these to roles in other professions, it becomes clearer where designers add value and have synergy to work collaboratively with other disciplines to tackle society’s most challenging issues.


richard louis arnott said...

Hi Lauren, thanks for your post, via the Design Council on FaceBook.
10 years ago, my own "MA Design Strategy & Innovation" at Brunel thesis explored "How can business better leverage the potential of design as a strategic management tool?"
I have learned some important lessons about the design/business interface ever since, through continuous desktop research and through my own practise and experience.

Only yesterday I read this excellent article, which you won't have seen, as you don't yet follow @servicejunkie "The 7 Biggest Challenges in Merging Design and Business" | Co.Design

Your PhD is even more relevant today, a decade on, as I think the design industry, as a whole, has been somewhat slow to adapt to the changing needs of business and organisational change.
If more designers do not learn to effectively communicate the language of their value to "design in business", they are doing themselves and our industry a disservice. Professionally trained designers could miss an unprecedented opportunity, as I see it.

I am currently reading Roger Martin's excellent book "The Design of Business - Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage", which I feel will inform and inspire me to explore the opportunities for servicejunkie that lay ahead in 2011 and beyond.

lauren said...

thanks for your feedback richard. so sorry it's taken awhile to get back to you. just moved back to australia last month.

the value of the designer and their contributions is really important, especially when those outside the design profession understand what designers do as being researchers, facilitators etc.

yes, designers are all those, but it then becomes difficult to articulate what we bring to the table next to those professionals who already hold those roles.

designers should not necessarily replace those professionals, but work in collaboration with them, with the awareness of what additional value we can bring.