I got a heavy dose of design vibe last week in NYC. You know. Hanging around really smart design thinkers and the places they hang out in hopes that some of it will rub off. I designed the boondoggle around an invite by Business Week and Smart Design to sit in on an innovation and design discussion hosted by my friend and BIF-5 co-host, Bruce Nussbaum. Bruce has gotten the design vibe thing longer than the rest of us and has a great new gig at Parson’s. I needed to go over a few BIF-5 things with Bruce anyway so off to the big apple it was.
Bruce invited me to Parson’s so we could catch up and I could see the vibe up close. The village and Parsons conspire to draw you in. I also spent time with Helen Walters and Reena Jana, who cover the Design and Innovation beat at Business Week. Interesting week for them as they learned McGraw Hill put Business Week up for sale. The event I came down for took place at Smart Design (known for Oxo, and flip design) at their very cool (high on the design vibe meter) space in Manhattan. The event was well done with an active conversation about design’s place in the U.S. economic narrative. My visit was complete when I also got to spend time with my friend Alice Wilder of Blues Clues, and Super Why fame.
I left NYC charged up and more convinced than ever that design has an important role to play in transforming social systems, including health care, education, and energy. I also left with a strong sense that the design community needs to move on from the incessant argument over the importance of design thinking and process. It is time to claim victory. Get over it. The argument is boring. Design is important. We stipulate that design is about more than sexy products. We get that design is about delivering a compelling customer experience. Now, can we get on with putting it to work to solve real world problems?
No more books are needed to convince us that design thinking and process are a priority. They are important tools. If you want to convince us, stop talking about design thinking, and start putting it to work to mobilize real systems change. I want the next book I read about design to be about the “how”. I want case studies of how design enabled system experiments in health care, education, and energy. I want to know what we learn from these experiments and how we can try even better system configurations to deliver value to the patient, student, and citizen.
I am grateful for a strong design vibe because it gives me hope that we can create a better future. I just want the vibe to translate into trying more stuff and putting the tools to work rather than the navel gazing of today’s design thinking debate. Time to move the design conversation to a new, actionable, place.