He started out by speaking about some of the barriers that exist for designers in the business world. He saw two things that are particularly strong due to the fact that they are reinforced by our culture through popular media. The first is the victim's cycle. The idea, that as designers we are always victims. We always seem to have a chip on our shoulder and feel as though people are attacking us. When we get stuck in the victim's cycle we start to place blame for our problems on other people. The second is that we think we are special. We think that our processes are sacred and that we can solve any problem. This thinking is what can lead to a lot of tension in the business environment. He used an analogy that designers are makers and talkers are the suits. As designers we complain that the talkers just don't understand us (victim's cycle) but the problem is that the talkers just don't care that we are complaining. Business wants to reduce risk, while creativity creates risk. These two opposing forces are what creates a lot of the tension in the business world as we trying to understand and integrate design.
John then shifted his talk to focus more on technology and how design can play a greater role. In today's world technology is increasing at a blistering pace. But just because you have more technology does not mean that people will want it. This has created a shift in thinking within the tech industry. Tech is becoming so fast that it is irrelevant to our needs. This is why design has become so important to the tech industry. People's increased interaction with devices are bringing experiences to the forefront. Bust now that design is relevant it is more important that we focus more on how we approach it. We need to pay attention to the interactions that we have. To achieve great design you need great business thinking. These two need to coexist in order to find the proper balance of of thinking to make a significant impact. Without each other, both will be weak. In my favorite quote of the conference John said, "design is not instant oatmeal." I think that perfectly sums up his entire talk. We cannot expect to turn around one day and have a design led company or even think that design can have an impact overnight. There are so many different things that need to occur in order to transform a culture to even start considering design as driving force within an organization.
Next on stage was Doreen Lorenzo, Author, writer, and speaker. She was also the former president of Frog Design. Doreen spoke about leadership and how we should be approaching leadership differently to have a stronger impact on people. Leadership is not a war, it is about understanding people. Leadership is 50 percent business numbers and 50 percent about the people you serve. But as leaders we avoid the people that we serve because it often leads to irrational thinking. And irrational thinking leads to risk, which can also lead to a wealth of knowledge. By thinking irrationally and taking some risks we have the potential to learn more than we ever could have otherwise. As leaders we need to reassess how we look at failure and understand that things happen. How do you work through it? We need to concentrate more on learning from our mistakes. We need to understand our strengths and build our team around our weaknesses. Leadership is about managing change, people bemoan change, so as leaders we need to figure out how we can help them embrace change. We need to help move our cultures from the burden of toxicity to the burden of all developing together.
Last on stage was Scott Nazarian, president of Frog Design. His speech was about what role should design really be playing within our world. He used the world, communities, and neighborhoods as a metaphor to deliver his message. He started off by asking us to step back and understand that not everything exists as though you do. We need to understand what is around us in order to properly use design. And as we look to the future how is our desire for place and identity going to change? We need to realize that on different time scales, different problems exist. What works in one place might not work in another. We need to be able to zoom from urban scale to human scale to understand everything at once. Design has this ability to refocus and it will become even more important in the future.
As designers we need to thrive or we will wither. It will be about the conversations we have not the computations we create. We have to have the ability to adapt and grow. In the future we will have to reconcile human, material, and technology time scales in order to truly understand how to create something great.
Scott's presentation was very though provoking and intellectual. It was a great way to end two days at the DMI conference, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I met a lot of great people and heard some amazing talks. Over the next week or so I will begin posting some more of the thought provoking themes that I heard come of the conference and start sharing my thoughts.