#24: Introducing Design Literacy
Whatever happens to design, happens to the world.
Two years ago, I was asked to define what I think design means. Here’s what I said
The term “design”, to me, is such a loaded and ubiquitous word. It could mean a lot of things that aren’t necessarily similar but could share familiar patterns. Specifically for software and digital products, I would think of it as how Steve Jobs defined design [on a micro level]: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” and Alina Wheeler’s [on a high-concept level]: “Design is intelligence made visible”. It’s important to have both perspectives just as it’s equally important to constantly reflect on your career track as a designer, for you design that too.
Not much has changed since then, only that the core definition, purpose and ultimately, the goal of design itself has expanded, in the best ways possible. It’s oftentimes overwhelming how fast it is evolving. What it means for us is that a lot of what our thinking will shift, it must shift. At least, if we are to successfully handle the responsibilities being thrown at our direction. If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on this subject, please refer back to my #22 post: Our North Star.
Design literacy will be the new norm.
Born and raised in the 90’s, I was part of the generation that had a unique view of technological progress. We were young enough to have experienced life before the internet, but old enough to adapt to it when it started transforming the world.
We were the kids who had to learn BASIC in high school, HTML and CSS in college, while at the same time, slowly sculpting our careers to fit the digital economy… by learning more and more stuff post-college. At least for me, back then, I had no idea I would ever end up working in tech. But maybe I don’t speak for my generation. I was a late bloomer, after all.
As pivotal as our pasts are in guiding us, it is not at all a pivotal anchor to our destinies. It doesn’t matter, really, where we came from. What matters a lot is where we are going.
It is true for life, as it is for design. For however clunky, outdate and slow our progress have been, it is not in any way, an indication of our future. I’m wrong on a lot of things, and I could be on this one. But right now, all signs point to an extremely bright one for design. What is even more thrilling are the inevitable surprises, plot twists that will happen to it. From the early use cases of emerging interfaces such as XR/AR/VR to the unstoppable technical and creative capabilities of Voice, there is a lot to cover. We’ve only just begun.
If there is anything that the last decade has taught us is that whatever happens to design, happens to the world. It will eventually find its way out, and for better or worse, transform society and how we will all live.
There is no doubt in my mind: design literacy should be prioritized by anyone who plans to contribute to the new world. It’s not enough to just build things. It is also critical that we know what we are building, why we’re building them, and for whom. Human-centered design is not just a methodology, it is a way of life. At least, if we want a world build for humans the way it should be.
Is there any other goal worth pursuing than to fix this world starting with design*?
*design merging with other industries such as engineering, manufacturing, automotive, education, supply chain, financial, government and other well established fields
If your goal is to be a successful practitioner in a leadership role, you need to choose a goal other than making money. Making money certainly attracts people, but it is a weak attraction that attracts weak people. Making civilization better and stronger attracts people in a deeper and more profound way. People want goals that are worthy of the effort needed to achieve them, and it’s our responsibility to set such goals and demonstrate our commitment to them. — Alan Cooper, Worthy Goals
Learning kit on Design Literacy
I’ve accidentally started a series on medium on this topic on the format of ‘How-tos’. Once I have more time, I am planning on expanding this further.
[Generalist] How to Craft a Case Study You’ll Be Proud Of
[UX Writing] How to Design with Copy as a Tool
[Interaction Design] How to be Better at UX Coming from Graphic Design
Please do check them out. They’re all available for FREE. Personal insights, practical tips and theories on the most dynamic parts of UX written by a designer for all types of people. I believe in a world where design is democratized, and people are empowered.
It is the best thing that will ever happen to our field.
Thank you for reading,
To all the readers, subscribers of this newsletter, I would like to thank you for all the support. It’s been a year since I started this and I have no plans of ever quitting. The intersection of writing and design has always been the most interesting part for me. If you have any feedback at all, or if you have anything that you’d like for me to talk about, please I’d love to hear them. Please write me an email: nikkiespartinez@gmail. I would love to hear from you.