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Stepping outside the design community

More and more I feel like I’m stepping outside recognised design communities to have conversations about design.

I think that this is important. For me, the practice of design is secondary to being able to translate design into something more impactful.

This means that sometimes people inside design communities don’t like how I talk about design or frame design as a process. What I am doing is framing ideas for a different audience. I find that this takes me outside what I now think of as mainstream design thinking and ideas, at least occasionally. When I’m writing here, I’m writing for everyone else as much as I’m writing for the design community.

Strong opinions are important if design is going to speak to non-designers and cut through to people that might not be actively listening. That’s where I believe design is needed most.

The uncomfortable

I’m less worried about small communities that feel like they need to own parts of design as a practice and want credit for that. Design has to be more universal. It has to be broader than specialisms, and who owns process, methods and ways of working. My approach to working in the open is that talking about design should create a platform for others to build with and from. Ideas connected to new ideas. Methods and approaches that evolve, translate and then work in new contexts to speak to new audiences.

It can get uncomfortable when someone’s work potentially starts to push the boundaries of a community of practice. People’s sense of ownership and contribution, even how they belong in that space can start to feel under threat.

Design is always best thought about, at least in part, as an outlier and disruptor. Sometimes you will need to cut and paste or to simplify. You work fast, and most of all you inevitably break things.

You can only really be part of a community of practice in design if you’re also willing to step outside it to make design into something more meaningful.

Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.