Why Designers Need to Share What We Do

Most people are still, unfortunately, mystified by design and designers. Among the most egregious misconceptions: that our profession is defined solely by aesthetics and decoration; that practitioners tend to be "moody, erratic, eccentric, and arrogant;" and that we even require specific management methods to function properly in organizations. Too often these misconceptions and more lead to design being confined to a frivolous box that separates us from other fields and limits the scope of our impact.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a designer who specializes in visual craft, but the creative process easily stretches beyond—it inherently makes us innovators and changemakers. Can you think of any other profession that looks at problems with an open and empathetic mind in order to create from an infinite amount of possibilities intelligent, appealing solutions? It’s a shame that this mindset is so often limited to aesthetics when design can robustly handle some of society’s most complex issues and even augment other practices. In fact, social scientist Herbert Simon says anything concerned "not with how things are but with how they might be"—among which he cites engineering, medicine, and business—is actually design.

Designers: in order to show non-designers the real value we can contribute, advocate for our profession in a rapidly developing and changing world, and help build a better world in which more people are creative problem solvers...

We have to articulate our profession in non-design terminology.

Design plays well with others, but that doesn’t become obvious until we’re on the same page. Avoid using industry jargon in favor of layman’s terms. Design is also better explained using objectives ("I wanted to make this easier for people to use...") in addition to decisions ("... by consolidating this feature") because it highlights your rationale and eliminates the ridiculous notion that designers make random creative decisions.

Try sharing your work with your non-design colleagues and friends. Field their questions and try to draw relationships between your respective fields. You can even ask them to join you during your process—they’ll be able to contribute to what you're working on while also gaining an understanding for what you do. If you're bold, try sharing what you do publicly (Pecha Kucha is a great first step).

We have to be able to teach our profession to others.

We didn’t learn our discipline through textbooks because design can’t be adequately conveyed via description or explanation—doing is really the best and only way to understand it. Student leaders of Design for America regularly lead workshops at the Better World by Design conference and at college campuses around the country, and some of the most rewarding things that students studying everything from biology to economics have said to me afterward was how they gained a whole new way of looking at and solving problems, that the design process has changed the way they understand their major. When you teach, you are not just furthering the profession of design; you are encouraging people to be more engaged citizens, challenging them to think about the world not as it is but how it could be, and empowering them to use their talents to create change.

Why not try leading workshops (here’s a resource from Stanford’s to practice teaching the design process? Start small, maybe with a few friends or colleagues, and work your way up to larger or more formal groups (a la Skillshare). If there are opportunities, consider sharing your knowledge at a local educational institution.

We should strive to be change makers and leaders in our communities.

I laughed out loud when Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote that creative people are "rarely gifted with leadership skills" in his Harvard Business Review article. The designers I know are naturally driven and passionate, undoubtedly capable of creating impact. By showing people that our work has the ability to affect significant change, we’re challenging traditional notions of design while also improving the world we live in.

Lead or contribute your skills to projects in your community (try OpenIDEO and, of course, that bring together designers and/or non-designers to solve a problem. Consider joining or mentoring a Design for America team and partnering with students to create change. Maybe even start your own initiative related to a cause you believe in.

As designers, we already recognize the potential of our profession; now it’s up to us to show its value to our colleagues and peers. This is especially important with a field as broadly applicable and highly collaborative as ours, and in a society with more wicked problems than ever. We can’t afford to limit—or allow others to limit—our practice; we have to be able to share and empower others through design in order to build a better world together.

Image by VLADGRIN via Shutterstock

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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