Design and business thought leaders have been carrying the design thinking torch for several years now. This has major implications for designers – especially for those practicing in a corporate setting. The premise that design is evolving into a profession that stresses the strategic over the tactical and problem solving over artifact creation gives in-house creatives needed leverage to get a seat at the mythical table – and this is good.
But there is a danger in promoting designers as strictly higher-level big picture strategic partners. If creatives are all focused on the 1,000 foot view, who’s in the trenches? Who takes on the choice of fonts, images, layout configurations, color and branding elements? This mindset also ignores the fact that not all designers have the aptitude for hardcore design thinking.
The design community is looking to attack the notion that designers are just “a pair of hands”, a moniker especially distasteful to in-house creatives, but it had better take care not to marginalize some of its key competencies including the unique ability to execute on strategy. It would also be wise to acknowledge that the verbal, holistic abstract thinking skills that are integral to design thinking are not easy to acquire and that many, if not most, designers will never master them.
In order ensure a well-balanced mix of professionals, it’s important to avoid creating a hierarchy of design thinkers, hands-on designers and production artists at design schools and within organizations dedicated to the profession. There’s clearly a home for individuals with skills in each of these 3 areas in business, government and academia. All designers are not created equal but all are equally important.