Blogi • 02.03.2021

Resetting the role of design

Resetting the role of design

“If we don’t consciously acknowledge the power we have as designers to influence the future, and accept our responsibility, then we should not be in the job.”

From where I’m sitting, it feels that the world (or more specifically, society) is going through a phase of tremendous disruption, anxiety and change. I was born in 1968, making me 52 years old and I can honestly say that I can’t remember a time when I was so engaged/enraged by the daily news reports and events from around the world. Of course, COVID currently has a huge part to play, but for me, it’s a much bigger phenomenon. Do you feel it too?

These are the kind of hot topics on my mind in a typical day. Climate change, political polarisation, right wing uprising, left wing wokeness, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, gender equality, diversity, identity politics, erosion of democracy, influencers, haters, big tech monopolies, celebrity culture, mass extinction etc, etc. I know, it’s heavy shit and overwhelming. It leaves us feeling hopeless, useless and disengaged.

However…

As a designer these are also the things that make our job so interesting and relevant right? I’m optimistic at least that we can make a difference. After all, our responsibility as designers is to create a future we can believe in, and to directly solve the problems at hand for people, their communities and society as a whole. Our job is to help companies and organisations remain relevant in serving society throughout this disruption and additionally playing our part in keeping the whole network economically healthy at the same time. Big job for sure, with many unknowns, and a lot of responsibility. I need a pay rise.

I’d argue that as a designer of digital services, we actually have no choice about our responsibility toward these challenges. If we don’t consciously acknowledge the power we have as designers to influence the future, and accept our responsibility, then we should not be in the job.

Some important questions that I hear from designers in conversation and in the industry.

  • Where do we stand as a design community?
  • Where do I stand as a designer?
  • What do I care about?
  • Where should I focus?
  • How do I get started?
  • How do I stop designing stuff I don’t believe in?
  • How do I do this on top of my day job?

Hard questions to answer I’m sure, but questions that are easier to answer if posed together as part of an organisation or company. If you work as a designer for a company, then the company has a responsibility to provide a platform for your values and mission as a designer. The best companies are the ones that align the community around a shared set of values and desired world view. A position that represents the overall impact they want to achieve in the work they do together with their customers. Maybe this is a luxury, but I think not. More and more companies are recognising the needs of a new generation of employees who value meaningful work and positive impact as the main drivers for their careers and search for employment.

I’m personally inspired and activated by the brave and bold moves the Gofore brand has taken recently, with a new brand strategy and promise. Our promise being “Pioneering an Ethical Digital World” with its strong focus on holistic sustainability. In all this chaos, this position takes a clear stand and represents the kind of future we at Gofore believe in and want to build. The kind of future we come together as designers to create, in collaboration with our like-minded customers in both the public and private sector.

To do this in practice, we are rapidly developing our methods and tools and hence the birth of Good Growth as a framework for this approach.

Within Good Growth we have multiple tools to help us address the challenges from three angles, People, Nature and Business and to specifically answer to the ever-changing needs of our society, we have developed the specific methodology “Design For Everyone”. This toolkit helps us and our customers to engage with society in a deeper more meaningful way and to understand better what makes people tick now and in the future.

That’s good news for companies and public sector organisations. They’ll need to keep a keen eye on their relevance in a market where social media can literally kill a brand overnight and new generations of opinionated activists are progressively developing society at a pace that far outstrips the clock rate of your average institution or corporate entity.

So, with all that said, I think it’s a great time to be a designer. The design opportunities that are presented to us are as exciting as they are challenging. Stay tuned for more news on our Good Growth model and in particular the Good Growth tools that will help us get there.

Check out my earlier blog introducing Good Growth

Anton Schubert

Anton Schubert

Anton Schubert has been working for more than 25 years with global customers in numerous design consultancies in Europe and the US. Anton’s experience covers multiple industry domains with leading brands such as VW, Samsung, Prada, Lufthansa, Ford, Vodafone, Allianz, Nestle, Arla and P&G. He has built and led successful design teams in Helsinki, Stockholm, and London with numerous brand strategy, design and digitalisation companies. Anton is leading Gofore’s Good Growth offering. The aim going forward is to support our customers both in the public and private sector with their sustainability transformation.

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