Design Minus Business

What is design like when she's single?

Design Minus Business

Doesn't it feel like all design is talked about in the context of companies? It's always design as part of business processes; product development, market research. But who's talking about design at a higher level? A more abstracted, or philosophical level. Like where design stands in the grand scheme of things, as human civilization's grand act of creation and imagination of the future. For now, Frank Chimero's Shape of Design is the closest thing I've found to that.

On the other hand, I have to agree with this line of thinking:

"Our job isn’t to “make people’s lives better”. Our job is to prove to our stakeholders, with our work, that caring for customers actually leads to better business."
Fabricio Teixeira, Caio Braga for UX Design CC

Of course, we're stuck in the game of capitalism, we have to play by the rules of the system. Design isn't a thing that can stand on its own, like art can. Design is to industry what criticism is to art.

Design borrows knowledge from and is dependant on other sectors. In Designerly Ways of Knowing, Nigel Cross defines "Design with a capital D" as "the collected experience of the material culture, and the collected body of experience, skill and understanding in the arts of planning, inventing, making and doing." He also states that the role of the designer is "to effect a translation from individual, organisation and social needs to physical artifacts."

Design is about solving problems and communicating messages.The problems don't exist in a vacuum, and the messages have senders and recipients that live outside of design.

But what if we started thinking about design in isolation to better understand it? What even is design in a vacuum? I'd first need to unpack my love/hate relationship with design's business-centric definition, a.k.a its identity!
I'm trying to find out the true identity of design, its truest self without ties to industry. (What design's like when she's single!)

Because in the end, I love my job, but I hate capitalism.

What is design when not observed through the lens of capitalism?
What is design when not focused on product-market fit?
What is design when not rushed by quarterly deadlines?
What is design when not limited by capital and budget?
What is design when not pressured to prove its ROI to stakeholders?

That's what I want to know, what design is outside of business. Is it a process? A mentality? Or just a trendy word for our very human ability to create?

For now, I've found that design is a way to play with the future. It's our collective creative force. Which is why I think it might be greatly limited by the small scope of business. Inside of business, design is products, services, buildings, urban layouts and communication (advertising). All very concrete things that we can easily make sense of and which solve tangible problems that impact our lives.

But surely there must be something more! I can't even begin to imagine what could be designed outside of our limited scope of reality! We are the only species with the power of imagination, and we've almost taken that for granted, entering design always with a monetary goal.

What if design was a practice used in creating governments and whole societies? Leveraging design activities to imagine how things could be beforehand, potentially saving loads of time and undesired consequences.

What if design was recognized as the third pillar of eduction, like Cross proposed. We'd have the Humanities, the Sciences, and Design. That way, it'd be a much more common area of practice, a much more accessible way of thinking. We'd see creativity thrive in all areas, and at every level.

This is all very much non conclusive, it's a line of thought I love diving in and out of. Maybe one day I'll find answers. Maybe one day we'll experience design when she's single and then we'll see the potential she unlocks.