LPK’s Nathan Hendricks Explains Why Design Doesn’t Matter Yet at AIGA’s Design Week Event

13 Sep 2012
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Design doesn’t matter. In fact, it sucks. We, as an industry, fall short when it comes to design education and how we partner with business. Or that’s at least what LPK’s Chief Creative Officer Nathan Hendricks argued during his speech “Design: The New 4th Estate” at last night’s AIGA’s Cincinnati Design Week event.

“I’m so cynical about design because I’m romantic about design,” said Hendricks to an audience of over 50 people in LPK’s Mansion.

But what if people actually valued designers like they value scientists or journalists or doctors or politicians? Hendricks went on to make the case that one day design could be elevated to the point that it could hold a US cabinet position—the U.S. Secretary of Design.

Hendricks spoke about the value of several different American institutions, but focused on the idea of journalism serving as the 4th Estate. The press has always been a rich and vital piece of America’s underpinning—but today it has become a sick institution plagued with little original reporting because of the complexity of the media industry. In essence, Hendricks pointed out that our culture is “screwed” and now, more than ever, we need design.

“This is great news for designers because designers solve problems,” said Hendricks. “There is no reason in my romantic delusionary mind that design can’t become the new 4th Estate.”

Hendricks presented a solution for elevating design and turning it into a revered institution. Designers, he said, need to come to an agreement about what their industry means and how it can enrich both business and our culture. He presented a Designer’s Code to elevate the importance of design with the following standards:

          • Be True
          • Make Meaning
          • Represent the People
          • Spread Beauty
          • Be Influential


After the presentation, attendees discussed Hendricks’ speech. Check out a few reactions below:


“I thought it was thoughtful and inspiring. It’s what I’d expect from Nathan,” said Datina Juran, University of Cincinnati co-op adviser. “I’ve never been so happy to know that we’re screwed.”“It was really a refreshing take on the state of design and where we should be going,” said Ryan Cayabyab, AIGA’s marketing/PR director.“Nathan Hendricks for U.S. Secretary of Design 2012!” said Lisa Barlow, assistant professor and graphic communication design University of Cincinnati co-op adviser.

Click these links for a more in-depth explanation of Hendricks’ Design, The New 4th Estate and Hendricks’ proposed Designer’s Code.