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Enduring principles in a changeable world
On starting her maternity leave, Katie Buchanan reflects on how much the digital design industry is — or more to the point, isn’t —…
On starting her maternity leave, Katie Buchanan reflects on how much the digital design industry is — or more to the point, isn’t — changing.
By Katie Buchanan, Partner, Wilson Fletcher
I’ve just started my maternity leave, which will most likely see me away from work for a year. It’s made me reflect on my 12-year career and how much our industry has changed in that time and got me thinking about how different things may be when I return to work.
Service Design — my supposed profession — did not really exist when I started out, and the term UX has continually evolved. Our industry is moving so fast that I sometimes fear I’ll be out of date in a year’s time. However, when I reflect on the basics of what constitues good design, I wonder whether anything has really changed at all.
Almost 50 years ago the industrial designer Dieter Rams outlined 10 principles for good design. The startling — and comforting — thing about his principles is that they still hold true and are as applicable for digital products as they are for physical products. Take principle 10: ‘Good design is as little design as possible’. He goes on to explain this as “less, but better — because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.” The goal of design has always been to craft thoughtful answers to real problems. I really can’t see that changing anytime soon — and that’s the inspiring and exciting bit.
What has changed is the environment in which we apply these design principles. First, continual technological advancements have fuelled changes in customer behaviour and expectations. Second, the market in which many organisations operate with has become far more competitive, with the constant potential of new entrants coming from unknown sources. Arguably this all means that there’s never been a more exciting time to be in design — and ‘good’ design has never been so valuable.
At Wilson Fletcher we’re always adapting our programmes, methods and techniques to match the challenge at hand, but our underlying philosophy on how we approach a challenge has never really changed.
We’ve always believed in taking a genuinely holistic and multidisciplinary approach to design, exploring problems from multiple perspectives at the same time.
We’ve always believed that rational thinking makes creative thinking better — with every solution we propose founded on a robust, intelligent rationale.
We’ve always believed that every design needs a purpose, and that for many of our clients this involves increasing their commercial success.
I’m pretty confident that in a year’s time these will still hold true, as they will in a decade.
What will undoubtedly change are the buzzwords in the industry and the language that people use to describe what we do. By the time I return, will we be a service innovation practice, an innovation accelerator or simply a digital design studio? Who knows? But all this is good old fashioned spin. What we’ve always done and will always strive to do is design outstanding digital services.
I can’t see that changing, so perhaps I’ll be alright after all.