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It’s Design, not Decorating

A few months ago, I read Dan Pink‘s book, A Whole New Mind. Excellent stuff, with echoes in his video What Really Motivates Us? (check it out here), and it introduced me to the idea of “right mind thinking”. I’ve had a great respect for and interest in Architecture over the years, and have watched with great fascination (and a bit of jealousy) as my daughter progresses through her Interior Design studies at the University of Cincinnati (she’s the quote source for this post’s title, the designer of this blog’s logo, and I’ve even ripped a bit of one of her studio projects for an illustration).

CPB Erin MacLennan 2009 scaled
Click to enlarge …

As I read, watch, and listen as Erin talks about her passion and her projects, I’m also making connections to my professional experience and philosophies; it’s easy to write documents, develop applications, and create presentations, but it’s difficult (yet very impactful) to incorporate effective design into the finished product. However, much like Dan Pink’s observations on Abundance and the elevation of R-Directed Thinking, I see corporate IT groups feeling pressure to deliver technology that is fast and friendly like consumer tech, even though this is fundamentally in opposition to legacy corporate IT thinking.

Interior Design starts with a blank space, and figures out how to lay everything out to accomplish the objectives – living and working, following building codes and regulations, taking advantage of energy savings, etc. Easily said, but difficult to master; in IT, “design” is one of those annoying disciplines where written specifications are vague and problematic, merely acceptable results are faintly grating, and the best stuff is defined as “you’ll know it when you see it”.

This is not where IT likes to play – yet the same concepts apply to the design of compelling, impactful data visualizations, reports, web sites, etc. Are you taking a basic form layout and augmenting with the latest gadgets? Or are you mindfully thinking about layout of page, screen, data, and ink?

Design and IT

More to follow – I have a backlog of recommended reading and thought-provoking videos to pass along, courtesy of my RSS reader. But if this topic piques your interest, the best place to start is Dan Pink’s book – a quick read, and maybe the start of a fundamental change in your outlook.

That and a trip to the DAAP School of Design – ask for Erin, and prepare to be amazed.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Yes! Dan, I agree with you. The seeds of innovation are present in most people, and must be nurtured in order to blossom in most corporate environments.

    The biggest challenge may be the manager’s commitment to be persistent and consistent over a long period of time, rewarding employees who may take only very small initial steps toward this way of thinking in a corporate setting.

    This challenge reminds me of martial arts training, where the student is positively rewarded for the slightest progress in the desired direction. This requires a very patient teacher to stay the course because day-to-day progress may be nearly invisible. Sure, a few naturally talented individuals make speedy progress; but, more often than not, it is only after many months that a student and teacher can look back and measure substantive progress. A side effect of this reality is that the typical student who struggles to overcome difficulties along the way is better equipped to handle difficult situations in the future – these are seen simply as speed bumps. The naturally talented ones, those who never faced adversity in their training, are often the first to give up when the going gets rough.

    Persistence and consistency. Easy to say. Difficult to execute.


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