What annoys me most about design today?

Earlier this year, I presented remarks at the Gravity Free conference in Chicago, organized by Exhibitor Magazine and my friend Lee Knight. The event is an annual conference that is not to be missed. There were presentations on everything from comic book design to 3D printing–did you know we’re about to be able to print internal organs for human use? It’s wild!

I was asked to be sure to answer two questions at the conference. I’ve transcribed them and my answers below.

The first question is: “What most annoys you about the design world?”

I’m annoyed that holistic design thinking has mostly died. Designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan are not very welcome today. Instead, there are a series of specialists who each handle a small portion of the entire project vision. This then traps both projects and their designers within an inconsistent framework on which no one has the abilities to lead. Our firm uses the holistic approach with great success. We have always strived to stay involved in numerous project types each with different design challenges. As a firm, we have reinvented ourselves every decade in order to stay interested and interesting, and to keep growing in our design view of the world. If a designer looks at projects as business propositions solely, before long you are part of the status quo and out of date. On the other hand, if you constantly augment your creative being, you will not only grow, but feel the energy that the unknown gives you.

The second question is: “As collaborative design becomes more popular, what role – if any- remains for the “outlaw” designer?”

The design elite in cities has kept the outlaw designer out of key projects. I started my studio in Chicago in 1978, where the design turf was dominated by so-called “mature” creative professionals. I moved to Atlanta in 1981, where I was able to increase the depth of our work by learning about all of the other specializations. After a period of time, even Atlanta became a place where these specializations were defined. We then started practicing internationally. Our first place was Korea. Koreans saw us as being able to redefine a project from an outsider’s perspective. Most recently, we practice in the Middle East, China, and India, where we are able to create a unified vision for the entire project. We can do this only by being knowledgeable about the entire project and with knowledge of many specializations.

The outlaw designer today lives in developing design markets, where we can create the whole vision. It is the outlaw client who responds to the outlaw designer: one who wants to be free of the status quo. The outlaw can’t create a free-for-all, though. The outlaw needs to have a method to their madness, to be able to direct the rudderless client on their journey into uncharted waters and toward success.


年初我在芝加哥举行的“无重力”论坛中发表讲演。该会议是由“商展人”杂志和我的好友里耐特主办,每年一次我不会错过的专业会议。 从漫画书的设计到三维列印,这个会议中可以看到各式各样的东西被发表展出。你知不知道我们即将可以用三维列印的方式制造代用的人体器官?疯狂有趣!



全面性设计思考的方式逐渐式微让我相当得恼火。像弗兰克·劳埃德·赖特或是 路易斯·沙利文那类的设计师在今日是不受欢迎的。取而代之的是一整落不同的设计专家,每一个专家只处理整体项目远景的一小部份。每个专家和他的那部分就这样被绑在一起,陷进了谁也不是领导者的突兀框架中。我们的设计室以全面性设计思考来工作,一向相当的成功。我们努力的尝试各类的项目,接受不同的设计挑战。我们将近每十年就给自己从新定位,以保持自己对设计的热情、受欢迎的程度、还有提升自己做设计的眼界。如果设计师将项目完全看成商业行为,我们很快就会变的死板、僵化而无趣。相反的,如果我们能不断提升我们的创造精神,我们不但会持续成长,还会感受到未知带来的能量。




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