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Designing a Design Vision

One of my classmates was just asked in a job interview what his design vision was. It's a rather odd question, but strangely enough, one I've been asked before as well. Apparently, we designers are supposed to have vision. And since I have several interviews coming up myself, I should probably design one for myself in case I'm asked about mine.

Descending as I do from plumbers, factory workers, railroad men, coal miners, and potato farmers, I'm a fairly practical sort, so talking about vision seems a little quaint. I don't have no visions, guv'nah. I just do the work! I'm much more comfortable talking about the work and the process of design than I am about a design vision. Visions are ephemeral, work is tangible. And while I have my thoughts on what Interaction Design with a big I and a big D is and should be about, I'm not sure that constitutes a vision. A vision implies a picture of the end-state, and I'm too much of fan of chaos theory and design to be certain of those.

To me, a vision also implies bringing a lot of yourself into products, imposing your "vision" onto them. And while I certainly have an ego, I don't have a fixed set of things that I think every product should be. Each product should arise from its circumstances. In fact, I suppose that could be my design vision: design is about being appropriate. Creating the appropriate thing for the appropriate time and for the appropriate people.

Few of the things I've designed work, feel, or look the same. Although like every designer, I have my bag of tricks, I don't have much of a personal design style that I impose on my projects. I feel like that's not, erm, appropriate. The result of the design process should be products whose characteristics have sprung up organically from the research, examined and molded by the expertise of the designer.

Now certainly, I think some of my personality is going to influence the products I create (as I've written about before). And I don't think this is a bad thing. In fact, it's probably desirable. To paraphrase what Kevin Lynch said about cities, we don't want to make things that are alien to us. But we don't make things that are inappropriate (unless they are deliberately, disruptively so--sometimes the most appropriate thing is the least appropriate) just to fit a designer's vision. That's not ego, that's hubris. And while that can get you far, it can also cause some hellish things and events to be designed. Vision can be a dangerous thing.

So I'm going to stick with this appropriate thing for a while. It's a modest vision for individual products, but broadly a very powerful one, I think. If every tool, every experience, was appropriate for you, perhaps especially for you, the whole system of the world would be less frustrating, less cold, and less cruel.

Originally posted at Wednesday, November 24, 2004 | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)

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