If you work in design, you are probably sick of hearing the words "innovation," "collaboration," and even the word "design." They’re used so often that they’ve almost lost all meaning. But sometimes we can be surprised by those things that have been right in front of us. Thinking about the etymology of these words made me think about exactly why we, as designers, were originally inspired by these ideas.
[This is the first installment in a new series by Paddy Harrington, executive creative director at Bruce Mau Design.]
Ricky Gervais is a great designer.
Some would say that Gervais’s cutting jokes as the host of the Golden Globes were a form of professional suicide. In fact, after the event, several members of the Hollywood community said that he would never work again.
Here’s the problem: those people have an old-fashioned idea of power.
[This is the first post in a new series by noted design writer Warren Berger. His most recent book, CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation, is out this month in paperback.—Ed.]
When we think of innovation, we tend to associate it with forward motion. We may envision it as a leap ahead—a radical breakthrough that happens quickly—or, more realistically, as a steady march forward, during which a series of small advances and refinements eventually lead to a desired outcome.
From their spare stores to their exquisitely simple product lines, the 30-year-old Japanese lifestyle brand Muji has created an aesthetic that manages to be utilitarian and high-end at the same time. Muji's name comes from the Japanese word mujirushi, which translates to "no brand," and it tells you everything you need to know about the company's design ethos. Muji design is an exercise in restraint — in stripping down products to their most basic parts.
Jennifer Siegal first grabbed our attention in 2006, as a prefab pioneer with an abundance of percolating ideas. Fast-forward, and the 44-year-old's eco-friendly visions are coming to fruition. Her first completed house sits near Joshua Tree National Park, in southern California. In April, a family moved into a 100% off-the-grid house she designed in Big Sur. And she and her students at the University of Southern California are now tackling the architectural design of food trucks (a nod back to Siegal's days of slinging hot dogs to put her-self through school).
Imagine for a moment that a business needs a radically innovative approach to a vexing problem. Designers and managers start with an intense focus on the human aspect—the real problems their customers face in daily life. Somebody gives the obligatory talk about out-of-the-box thinking. Then they step back—way back—and let creativity, not the cold exigencies of logic, reframe the problem. When it works, this process can lead to startling new solutions. In the parlance of the moment, this is called "design thinking."
I just received a holiday greeting from Bruce Mau Design. It is sufficiently stimulating and inspiring that I'd like to share it with all of you. Please consider this the e-quivalent of recycling a nicely done greeting card and accept Mau's wishes as my own for you this holiday season.