High-powered design courses are displacing MBAs. On the lips of many executives, and of even more design consultants, words like ‘design’, ‘innovation’ and the all-important money word ‘strategic’ are recited like a mantra.
This is the age of DESIGN with a BIG D. For those of us in the biz, our D cup runneth over. But booms can all too quickly turn to busts, as it were. And as sure as night follows day, so the big D is followed by the big E. No, not enthusiasm, not excitement. We have those aplenty now. I mean the biggest E of them all, the grim reaper of EVIDENCE.
One of the main characteristics of the current overheated, feverish interest in design is the absence of real evidence. I don’t think those involved in the delirium realise how serious this asymptomatic condition is.
In 2003 there was a high-powered online conference about a proposal to run a new undergraduate and postgraduate program in design at a leading university. Some of the best minds in the field were involved in the construction of the courses and in the conference. All the key buzz words were on the table: ‘sustainability’, ‘customer focused’ etc etc. But one term was absent. You guessed it, the big E, evidence. When asked for evidence that could be used in support of the proposal to demonstrate the benefits of design, there was a deafening silence. This is not unusual in design circles, and it is the most telling symptom of possible death following deliriums of over enthusiasm.
The big D may turn out to be just another business fashion and die like its predecessors. That would be a great shame, but it will happen unless its promoters take the time to collect the evidence that the design process leads to all the things we want: sustainable, humane, productive and profitable outcomes that transform our lives. Without this evidence, design with a big D is dead.