There be Dragons

I have to admit I’ve been reading Marty Neumeier’s new book “The Designful Company” for a week now. It’s so damn full of tasty nuggets that I can’t get to the back cover, but I’ve promised myself I’m finishing the book by the end of the week and I’ll post a recap.

With that said I have to riff on one part of the book that really fascinated me. One of Marty’s point of emphasis on design is that design is not just about styling products and communications. Design is also a powerful tool for change. Marty drills it further to “design is change.”

Being a romantic for anything slightly related to Pirates and early ocean exploration I was hooked by a little history lesson and Marty’s take on design outcomes.

Designing differs from other activities not only in its outcomes, but in the mental and physical processes that generate those outcomes. It takes place in the uncomfortable gap between vision and reality. The vision-reality gap is filled with “creative tension,” a powerful source of energy for creative people. In the early days of navigation, mapmakers would mark the mysterious gaps on their charts with cheerful warnings such as, There be dragons! There be dragons in the vision-reality gap, and the truly creative people are those who are irresistibly drawn to do battle with them.

Marty goes on to say the gap is the distance between “what is” and “what could be.” Traditional business has placed “what is” in the drivers seat while strapping “what could be” in the kiddie seat where it can’t disturb the driver.

It’s pretty obvious There Be Dragons in the 21st century. Sign me to be one of these new designers, facing mysterious just like our forefathers did facing the mysteries of the oceans. Thinking this way will be messy, and we will have to learn fighting dragons all over again.

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