I was listening, actually re-listening to Brené Brown’s speech at the 99 U conference given maybe a year ago. While her talk was on “Stop Focusing on Your Critics,” there was a line near the beginning where she said, “Design is a function of connection” that hit me. (Brené has a way of hitting me with the things she says.)

I often feel the need to come to the aid of my industry — DESIGN — to justify it, to validate it. Since Apple and Adobe has appeared on desktops, the art of design has been pulled in conflicting directions. On one side, technology gives designers incredible tools to produce amazing bodies of work. On the flip side, anyone with a computer suddenly “thinks they are a designer.” The operative word here is “tools.” Good tools can make the work better, but creating exceptional work takes talent, hard work, and experience.

These days designers are inflicted with crowd sourcing (sites that ask designers to create and submit ideas for little or no compensation), design contests and logo mills. All these create a complete disconnect of what design is supposed to do, not to mention undervaluing design and creativity.

Combined with the above, there are a lot of designers out there, all competing for audiences, clients and recognition. Combined, it has created a market place mind-set that with so many to choose from, it all comes down to price. It has turned designers into a commodity. Nobody wins in this scenario. It hurts the quality and integrity of design and it erodes the possibility of forming good working relationships between the client and the creative.

How Important is Design?

A Short Run Down of My Favorite Things Good Design Does:

1. Design solves problems, often in simple, elegant ways.

2. When design solves a problem for one group of people, (e.g. the elderly), it makes life better for everyone. Think of ergonomics and accessibility.

3. Design communicates and builds awareness. Not just for brands, but for causes and things that people should know in the interest of public health and safety. Design as a vehicle for communication often has an impact beyond words, is powerful, motivating, and memorable.

4. Evidence-based design — Studies have shown that design, when applied to the physical environment, positively affects an organization’s productivity, performance, morale, as well as influence well-being and reduce stress.

The above examples come back around to what Brené Brown was saying, design is a function of connection. That connection leads to empathy and a desire to make the world a better place. It’s in the heart of every designer I know, including mine.

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