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5 Things You Need to Know to Be a Better Designer

LPK’s Global Creative Team met up in London earlier this month for the Design Management Institute’s annual Design Management Europe Conference. It was refreshingly free of the self-indulgence that often plagues design symposiums. Instead, there was room for meaningful insights. Here are five key takeaways:


1) Make the possible probable.

Design strategy is a calculated risk of probability vs. possibility. Probability represents a known scenario backed by data. Clients feel safer making decisions there. Design thinking imagines scenarios of possibility and pushes decisions toward its uncertainty. Our job is to bring that uncertain possibility to a more informed probability.


2) Hey design—move on already.

Designers can be overly absorbed in craft. Enough with theory and processes, get something done! Design is about empathy, so why not show some already? Stop trying to sell design thinking and just make it part of how you design—the work will speak for itself.


3) Design something the future can design.

The blunt truth of it all is that you cannot predict the future. By default, the future is no longer a future if it is a known outcome. Rather than looking for all the answers, lower the stakes and iterate from there. (Small successes do count!) Accepting that we should never be able to get it right the first time will bring more rapid innovations.


4) RIP, couch potato.

Not so long ago, TV media consumption equaled couch potato-ism. But today, shows like Game Of Thrones, The Wire, Breaking Bad and others have made TV the Shakespearean theatre of our time. Gone is the “keep it simple” banner, and in its place are rule-breaking scripts with complex storylines and flawed characters. Complexity is the new norm. Open trickery is embraced, and consumers are keen to engage with the more intellectual.


5) Ask what, not why.

Traditionally, we have designed for symptoms—rarely did we design for the actual root cause. To do so requires us to be systemic in our approach. A good start is to ask “What?” instead of “Why?” and work backward from the end experience to the idea. What is the emotional vision or rationale, the emotional essence of what the brand is or has to say? That’s what design needs to capture or create so the brand can do more of it, and be known and loved because of it.

Were you at #dmiLondon? What discussions did you find most interesting? Share your own takeaways in the comments below.

Missed the conference or want to learn more? Check out these photos and this gallery of amusing and insightful sketchnotes.

LPK Asia’s Mario Van der Meulen is an executive creative director with an entrepreneurial eye and a hands-on approach to design. He revels in the dynamics of qualitative research and collaborative, cross-disciplinary design to create work that surprises and holds value beyond just a styled surface. In 2012, Mario was recognized by CBN Weekly as one of China’s Top 50 Innovation Pioneers. Follow him on Twitter at @MarioVDMeulen or email him at mario_van_der_meulen@lpk.com.


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