Typograph.Journal volume 02 celebrates (and interrogates) ideas and strategies relating to critical design practice and process.

Design as a noun, adjective and a verb.“Design” is often used as an adjective to describe the aesthetics of objects and forms.
– That is a well-designed document.

“Design” is also frequently used as a noun when referring to certain commodities, objects or forms.
– I like that design.

“Design” is even used as a pronoun to refer to the industry as a whole.
– Focusing too much on an end result, or how something looks, limits our understanding of design.

I am most interested in “design” as a verb: to design.

What are the processes
activities
rituals
methodologies
strategies &
thought patterns that emerge when we design?

As designers, it is the approach (or action we take) that defines the value and meaning of our service. “Design thinking” often guides us on ambiguous journeys, as we make efforts to identify opportunities, develop ideas, and implement solutions, through this process we tend to move through three distinct phases: see, shape, and build.

During the ‘see’ phase we identify the opportunity or define the problem to be solved. We gather information to research, learn and question. We rethink the problem, to get a deeper understanding of the opportunity.

As we ‘shape’, we create and consider. Strong ideas start fragile; during this ‘shaping’ the concept is nurtured and developed. The ideation and interpretation begins; we use exploratory thinking to play and experiment.

When we ‘build’ we prototype and test, before evolving and adapting our ideas into a product or outcome for delivery. In this phase we solve the problem and implement our solution.

To See. To Shape. To Build. All actions we engage with when we view design as a process rather than a outcome.

Designing (to design) demands exploratory thinking, with plenty of bravery, risk and spirit. It is a nonlinear process with loops, deviation and backward turns… The ideation process is messy! Design is not about finding the most direct journey from A to B. Trial and error along with an open mind are what leads to enlightenment and innovation. As designers we need the curiosity and courage to choose a meandering and unknown trail toward B.

Performer Twyla Tharp wisely said, “If you only do what you know and do it very, very well, chances are that you won’t fail. You’ll just stagnate, and your work will get less and less interesting, and that’s failure by erosion.”

Being willing to fail is a critical aspect of design that we all too often struggle with. We want to be effective and efficient so we tend to stick to safe and direct methods of creation. But instead (I believe) we need to actively take risks and fail through experimentation before we fail by erosion.

Our industry (design as a pronoun) must place more focus on process, ritual, action and discovery (design as a verb) to advance our understanding of (and abilities in) design (as an adjective and a noun).

Be conscious of your “design thinking”. Consider how you engage with ‘see’, ‘shape’ and ‘build’ as activities in your design ritual.

Honor your process! Recognize creative play, methodology and research is just as important as the final outcome. Be courageous and take risks!

Practice failing! It is a critical part of learning and advancement (sometimes easier said than done but the more you fail the better you get at it) the trick is to experiment often!

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