Designers arent’ problem solvers but problem framers

Image Upload on 2015-11-02 at 20_42_29.jpg

The designer myth 

Design Thinking and the new design god

Sometimes Design Thinking seems like we are putting the designer as our new god and worshiping him. It feels weird.

In the upper spheres of design thinking and startup world, we read more and more that the designer is the problem solver. We read that the designer has special skills that can disrupt a complete industry. That sounds pretty good.  I’m quite happy that people start to see  our profession as valuable. Not only valuable for the aesthetics part but also for the system thinking. But there is a step from giving legitimate value to creating a new god. Mike Monteiro says it well. Yes, a designer can change the world, but… They are still normal people. 
Designers aren’t problem solvers. Even for the small tasks in the design world. Designers usually ask more questions than they answer. I think that one of the particular skill that designers have, or at least design thinkers is to reframe a problem. That means that they often don’t solve the problem we ask them to solve. But rather, they imagine crazy things to solve something you haven’t thought about. And mostly, these solutions can’t work only with the design. To bring real change or to have a real impact we need more than a great design thinker.

Teams solve problems

Multidisciplinary team

Design Thinking in its core definition is multidisciplinary. But with the advent of the startup age and the design innovators much focus is on the designer side. To make the new framing of a problem realistic designers need input from all other fields. Once a problem had a new focus and made a bit more tangible, we still need to take care of everything else. We need administrators, organizers, experts, etc. We need a team. I see the designer thinker as this weird guy that makes people change perspective and then shuts up. Sometimes he has again something to say. But mostly after having changed the frame, he works on that frame without new and exciting disruption. 


On humility

Designers start to have a big mouth in the startup sphere. That is good in a way but terrible in the other. As people who are listened to for their crazy ideas, we should remain humble. It’s not because we have maybe brought a pivot or new frame that we are heroes. Thomas Eddison when speaking on inspiration explained that well. Most of the projects that are successful are 1% of inspiration and 99% perspiration. So if the designer job is to inspire a new way of thinking, he owns only 1% of the success. A lot of other people usually do the hard work. They might have smaller mouths and less extravagant clothes, but they do the job. 
In our fight for Design Thinking let’s not forget our place. Let's remind us how many people there are before and after us in each project we take part. Let's be proud to reframe projects and let's be humble by knowing that others solve them.