Design Reality

Design your life – A designer’s perspective

Consider the irony that everyone is trying to design their own lives, yet the vast majority of the population have no training in design

A person’s life evolves from a series of decisions that take them along a connected path. These choices are occasionally knee-jerk reactions to certain events, but the vast majority can be purposefully planned as a means of achieving personal life goals. These could be goals of spiritual contentment to business success, or to winning sports competitions. They all require a series of decisions to be made for the goals to be realised.

Life inevitably doesn’t go to plan and throws up surprises we must react to, taking us on an alternative path to achieve success. We must adapt to our lives changing in front of us by equipping ourselves with the skills to respond to what life unexpectedly throws at us so we can keep our dreams on course.

Learning how to make considered decisions to creatively adapt and change direction in our life’s planning is what’s needed when we come to a crossroad in our life. Problem solving and lateral thinking to assess the different options available to us.

Currently, this critical thinking ability is not learnt in schools, because we don’t know in which subject to teach it.  However, it could be and should be taught through design.

Design is a process of considered decisions that makes change happen. It’s defined as the deliberate planning of any act towards a desired outcome, so we can use design to achieve what we want from life, just like we were designing a chair that is comfortable and appealing. It’s the same process. Through education of this process, design students learn analytical skills through research, the evaluation of diverse choices, communicating feasible ideas and making the new ideas a reality. These are recognised as higher-order thinking skills, and to practise them in various situations means they become stronger and can be used diversely.

Consider the irony that everyone is trying to design their own lives, yet the vast majority of the public have no training in design. However, it’s a skill we can all learn.

Think of everyday decisions such as where to go on holiday or what clothes to wear to work, we make these decisions based upon a desired emotional response, or experience.  We also take pride in designing social experiences that delight others, such as weddings, parties and sports training. As humans, we strive to experience new things because they become the memories that are central to stories that we communicate in our conversations within our social groups.

We are designing the direction of our own lives, and also the social experiences of others, so design is clearly a very important cultural skill to learn. The process in making these everyday decisions comes down to innate human behaviour within us all because deep down, we are all designers.

There’s no greater example of this than from a family in Hull who set out to design a better life for their daughter, Imogen, who has Williams’ Syndrome, a developmental disorder that means she can get very easily distracted when learning new things. A virtual reality (VR) headset can help to take these distractions away. However, her father, Craig, found that what was available on the market wasn’t suitable as the sensory overload was upsetting for her.  He responded to this challenge by designing an appropriate educational VR programme, and a book to accompany it. Like all design thinking Craig’s story of designing new VR experiences for Imogen has been an iterative process in which he has understood the needs of the user and redefined the problem. Craig, though, would never think of himself as a designer, he has a design skill and mind set which are self-taught and ultimately a good idea and drive to make it happen. Design is a balance of thinking and doing and it is a transferable skill we can all learn.

Embedded within design education are many other lifelong skills transferable to any industry. For example, to direct decisions towards a successful outcome is in fact leadership, and to create value through an original and improved experience is entrepreneurship and the foundation of any successful business. The importance of these skills means design is now a core business function and designers are present on the board of all successful companies as Chief Design Officers.

Although many other factors change in the industry, the market and the economy, the best thing about design education is that it develops agile abilities for ever-changing modern situations, because the core focus is always constant: to design better experiences.

Wyn Jones

Creative Director