Rise above the DIN

I am teaching a Design Research Methods class at Massey University this morning. I'm grappling with the concepts of the need for research - from the point of view of generating insight and testing the validity of creative outputs.

I've seen innovative ideas slaughtered by poorly handled research. I've also seen random associations, masquerading as 'insights' come from focus groups and questionnaires where there is little evidence to support the result, other than a skewed interpretation of the feedback - I'll call it The Chicken Little Effect (acorn falls on head, leading to conclusion that the sky is falling).

Design research is an area that is under-exploited in thins country. Too much design product, particularly graphic design, I can only describe as generic at best and homogenous at its median worst. I'll avoid the expression 'really bad' because it is too subjective. There is a lot of material from well regarded design firms which is simply an expression of design orthodoxy. No risks are taken. No break from the cosy, neatly arranged and executed pathway that has already been forged through a genre.

The ultimate effect of such work on its intended audiences is hard to determine. A yawn I suspect, if indeed it penetrates the consciousness at all. Most 'designs' lack an idea of any kind. Many designers I know would be less exposed to risk of prosecution under the Fair Trading Act for accuracy of product description if they adopted the term 'layout artist' . The riskiest thing they attempt is whether to wear big arty glasses or not.

The keyword is insight. And the point of insight is to make a significant difference to a clients profits (which, if you are a designer, is the thing that will genuinely differentiate you form rival design firms - rather than a delightful portfolio of 'nice' work). I saw an equation the other day to measure success in design:



Work it out.

In the mean-time, avoid the typeface DIN*, drink lots of water and walk very slowly.

As you were…

Time to wake my son up for school.

*Der amusingische footenoten


DIN stands for Deutsche Industrienorm, German Industrial Standard. In 1936 the German Standard Committee settled upon DIN 1451 as the standard font for the areas of technology, traffic, administration and business.

(1936,…hmmm,…explains a lot mein herren unt damen)

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