Evolution of the mind a  case for design literacy? by Chris Pacione [Interactions]

Making a case for design literacy – Chris refers to the Fibonacci series and how Fibonacci’s (Leonardo of Pisa) ability to present his finding in an accessible format that allowed those ‘of the day to understand and apply to their daily lives.’ Where in the early years of the industrial age a need for math literacy among the working class emerged Chris postulates that;

‘… like arithmetic, which was once a peripheral human aptitude until the industrial age forced it to be important for everyone, recent global changes and the heralding of a new age are positioning design as the next human literacy.’

This ‘new age’ has been labelled with many terms. Daniel Pink calls it the ‘conceptual age’. Roger Martin ‘creative age.’ A.G. Lafley makes numerous references to ‘innovation culture’.  While others refer to it as the ‘connected age’. Whatever buzz word we attach to this supposed new age the question is, is design literacy something to push for.

This discussion has a tendency to become rather circular, perhaps then it is useful to consider the perspectives of: Daniel Pink ‘Today we must all be designers’; Roger Martin ‘Business people don’t need to understand designers better they need to be designers-to think and work like designers and to embed design-shop thinking into their businesses.’; A.G. Lafley ‘Good design is a catalyst for creating total experiences that transcend functional benefits alone and delight consumers. It is a catalyst for moving a business from being technology-centered or product-myopic to one that is more consumer-experience-centred.’

Tim Brown suggests ‘Design is too important to be left to designers’. By this Brown means that design ‘will have its greatest impact when it is no longer perceived to be in the hands of people who are professional designers and it is put back into the hands of everyone.’

Harold Nelson and Erik Stolterman (The Design Way) echo this sentiment ‘The process of design is not just for designers, but for anyone whose business it is to create or lead something… any one whose job it is to imagine something that does not yet exist and then plot the path from imagination to existence.’

Chris acknowledges that ‘there exists very little in the form of undisputable ROI for getting everyone to be more design-like’. But asks the reader to consider that:

1. Design thinking is not new (Alexander, Jones, Simon, et al, 1960s)
2. Global, economic and social conditions have emerged that may do for design what the industrial age did for math.
3. ROI for company wide  initiatives that foster design competency do exist and is being talked about by some very successful organisations (P&G…)

Chris does acknowledge that this is a contentious point, surely we’ve been doing just fine without everyman the designer, but rightly Chris acknowledges that ‘most of those living in 1202 thought they were getting along just fine with Roman numerals.’



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