“Ideas are bulletproof”

[Design]ating Purpose


This post is was inspired by a video and post about Design & Business published by Raymond Pirouz.

Designating Purpose

If you were a God, all seeing, all knowing, able to span endless space, travel through time… really do it all. What would your pass-time be? What could possibly keep you amused? How about creating another god and seeing what it does? Nah… that wouldn’t be too interesting… why would it be any different then you? OK then, how about creating another god and give it something to do – one specific things it needs to accomplish – a purpose? Sure, eventually it would come around and realize it’s being played (after all it is a god!) – but until it realizes that, there’d be a good show to be had? Now that’s entertainment.

Design is an act of creation, an activity that puts people who pursue it on a playing field with gods. Design is ultimately about assigning purpose … and then seeing what happens. “Good” purposes last longer and reach further. Lesser purposes lead into dead-ends… where you simply start over with hopefully a new and better purpose.

Everything we do is potentially an act of design. That potential manifests when a secret ingredient is added : Intent – the act of assigning purpose – performing an act with a conscious choice in heart and mind. Thankfully not eveyrthing we do is (or needs to be) an act of design (imagine chewing like that!?). Somethings come with a clear & demanding intent assigned to them  – hugging a loved one, feeding a baby – those are easy. Many things we do may at first seeem ambiguous intent-wise  –  these are opportunities to make a choice, and in making a choice making a difference.

Designers are people with (1) a nose for finding opportunities to make choices; (2) a passionate drive to make choices; (3) skills required to put their choices to action. Everyone has these tendencies and skills to some degree in some contexts. Designers have them more then others.

Not Knowing

Though much of design work is about observation & research into the current reality… inevitably it is about creating something that does not exist. Everything that is known to a designer serves as a jumping board into what is as yet unknown. Any methodology or process may be useful in preparing for the jump… but in the end you have to jump. You jump into a world where logic and reasoning are replaced by… unknowns.. you are no longer in control… you don’t find things … you find that things have found you. A designer can accommodate not knowing, I would even suggest that a designer is a master at getting there and enjoys being there. It is a peak experience of being in “the zone”.

Organizational systems, especially corporate and business, exist in a playground with set rules – and like most games, people play to win. To play in these playgrounds you have to know the rules. But here’s where it gets interesting – the surest way to win is not to play by the rules, but to kind of cheat – to test their limits and find some loophole which sets you free from them. Design is a strategy for cheating – it’s a kind of trick for escaping from what is known into what is unknown and coming back a little bit wiser.

Design & Business

I don’t necessarily agree with the suggestion that “Design and business have traditionally made uneasy bedfellows, with practitioners of each eyeing each other suspiciously”. I think that a hundred+ years ago , when some metal-worker was forging a plough for his farmer neighbour, that design and business went hand in hand – it was kind of obvious that if a metal-worker wanted to have food on the table, he needed his farmer friends to be able to do their work effectively – so he designed and crafted good, enduring, smooth working ploughs.

I do agree that design and business nowadays make uneasy bedfellows. Design (assigning purpose) is rooted in a value system you can’t deny and cheat – a system that can only strive for better and better. Many (most?) businesses seem to have evolved to a point where “good enough” is better. So naturally when design meets these business there is friction. In such cases it is unclear to businesses what design is (or even if it’s really necessary) and designers are not clear about what they can do (beyond moving the mouse around in Photoshop). These are the businesses that can hire ludicrously expensive design firms and sit them down with a CEO that asks if they can avoid using yellow – because he really doesn’t like yellow!

There are of course meetings of design and business that bloom beautifully – leading to great designs and great business – so much so that they seem one and the same.

One of my background notes for this posts says that “design is killing business”. I believe that in some way, design, the fundamental kind Raymond Pirouz talks about, is like a force of nature sifting and rummaging through the business world. It is attracted like a magnet to those instances of business that can accommodate what is has to offer and carryies them into the future  with literally a renewed sense of purpose. In it’s wake are businesses who are incapable of change – and will eventually be phased out of existence. Passionate designers are demanding agents for change at the corporate table – their presence there is a remarkable achievement regardless of what actually takes place during their stay.

Design Thinking

… is a futile attack on the nature of design. It signifies a friction between value systems. Design & designers should not make a mistake of assigning this phrase any unwarranted importance or consequence. Thinking is, thankfully, a common enough quality in most disciplines of our modern lives. Design is unique because it has the potential and mandate to go beyond thinking. Design & designers should be grateful and humbled in light of the magical force that shines from them and through them to others – a spreading inspiration.

I, for one, am thankful for joyful places where thought and words cannot go.

Design and business have traditionally made uneasy bedfellows, with practitioners of each eyeing each other suspiciously.
This entry was posted in AltEco, Business, Expanding, inside, outside. You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

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  • By Designing an Engine | iamronen on May 14, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    […] may also want to read: [Design]ating Purpose Related: Open Source, WordPressComments: Click here to leave a commentDonate: If this resonates […]

  • By Stuff I Did – Design | iamronen on January 7, 2012 at 10:05 am

    […] last toughts on design were about it being a process of identifying and designating purpose. Be Sociable, Share! Tweet This entry was posted in About, Memory You are welcome to add […]

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