I remember their reaction when I was 18, and I told my parents (and extended family) that I want to pursue graphic design in college. It was a mix of shock, wonder, confusion and disappointment. There were many justified reasons for that reaction — I was a bright biology student so my parents assumed I would be a doctor; I was in India some 20 years ago when the only form of design education people knew about was fashion design; and well, anything to do with being an ‘artist’ was associated with failure in career and being broke for the rest of our lives..
Fast forward 20 years, there are at least 20 different design specializations I can think of, and I am sure I haven’t even scratched the surface. Everyone is designing something — clothes, buildings, landscapes, food, experiences, shops, spaces, interactions, services, work flows, the web, education and everything in between. For the first time in the history of design, we, the designers, are being given a seat on the table. We are solving real problems, we are influencing real people, we are creating change. I am happy to say that for the first time, calling myself a designer, especially back home, actually stirs a sense of pride and accomplishment.
But is it just a wave that will eventually level down? Or is it something that we will see more of in the generations to come? What IS the big deal about design anyway? I think the answer to this lies in perception — the way each one of us perceives and recognizes a particular problem in our lives, no matter how small or big. And then find or design a solution that solves that problem elegantly and sustainably. That’s quite broad. So let’s try and break it down into the four pillars on which good design stands.
What is the problem we want to solve?
Who is it for?
Why is it important?
& How will it help?
If a design gives a justifiable answer to all of these 4 questions, in my opinion, it works! Here are some design decisions that I have made in 2019 alone. I have explained how each of them answer the 4 questions and how that has changed my life for the better.
- Problem Scenario #1: I have 2 cats and now a crawling baby. To top it all, I also have a certain case of OCD. So imagine my horror, when I see my baby lying facedown in a couch that has cat hair all over it. I do not have have time or energy to clean and the budget to get cleaners everyday. My current upright vac has a HEPA filter and cleans well but is a nightmare to handle. Baby food mess is another part that’s driving me crazy.
Who is it for? Domestic use, small households.
Why is it important? To maintain my sanity and a clean home.
How does my new Dyson Stick Vacuum Cleaner help? It’s light weight, more powerful than my bulky upright vac (to pick up cat hair and litter!) and easy to stow and use. More so, now that we live in a single family home with a completely carpeted upper level and stairs, I could not have imagined cleaning all of this everyday with that upright vac. The only downside, it comes with a heavy price tag. But I am willing to make that trade off!
Here is a review on Consumer Reports.
- Problem Scenario #2: With a new baby and no sleep came a side effect that was becoming more and more difficult to ignore. I didn’t think a changing table was necessary as I was setting up my baby’s nursery. I often laid him down on the bed and did the needful. But my back soon started to give way to excruciating pain and a very active, growing and often uncooperative baby would make things unbearable.
Who is it for? Primary caregivers (mom, dad, grandparents)
Why is it important? Your child is only going to get more and more active and you are only going to get more and more tired. Parents need innovative products to help with a relatively painless childcare routine.
How does the Ikea Changing Table help? The Ikea changing table is cheap, the right height for tall people like me and my husband and conveniently turns into a study table as the child grows. It saved our backs, will not be a redundant piece of furniture one the child outgrows it and diaper change, massage time and dressing up is now much more manageable and even fun!
- Problem Scenario #3: I have been a graphic designer for most of my professional life. But I recently decided to make a career switch towards UI/UX design. The jobs I had been applying to were seeing both kinds of projects on my website, but I wanted to find a way to separate the two while still maintaining a single web address.
Who is it for? Recruiters and potential employers
Why is it important? While I am primarily focusing on UX jobs, I do not want to deflect a potential employer by showing them a project that is not relevant to the job they are trying to fill. Also, I was paying a substantial amount for a hosted website, and I needed to explore other options out there to cut cost (since, unemployed).
How did updating my website help?
The process of updating my website helped me in 2 ways:
Cost Cutting: I had been a SquareSpace user for the longest time and was paying for it every year. What I didn’t know was that I would get a free website through Adobe portfolio if I was subscribed to Adobe CS (which I already was). So basically, I went to Adobe Portfolios, created a new website and only had to pay for my domain name (that I transferred from SquareSpace). I not only got a new website without any additional cost, I also could easily connect my Behance account to it to make it more discoverable.
A portfolio I wanted: The new website gave me an easy way to differentiate between my graphic and UX design work. More so, I connected the two pages by integrating a button that in effect says ‘there’s more’ without deflecting the potential employer to the kind of work I do not want them to judge me on the basis of.
Designers are not the only ones who are capable of making good design decisions. In my opinion, everyone can and should! It’s all about breaking that cycle of mundanity around us and pausing for a second and questioning the things we use at a daily basis — Things we are used to using at home and at work, things that are not changing our lives or our businesses for the better, the inefficient processes we are so used to but too afraid or busy to change. They need to change. And design can help.