Jordan Wayne Lee
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Metamodern Design : Chapter 1 – Defining Design

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INTRODUCTION

This book was written from a perspective over the past 13+ years of my experience working as a designer in both print and digital mediums across mobile, digital, web marketing, platform design, ux design, print design, brand identity design, responsive design, augmented reality design and environmental design for agencies, startups, global corporations, entrepreneurs, public figures, celebrities and entertainment companies.

Over the course of my career, I have worked across these various areas within design utilizing design thinking, processes and execution of work in collaboration with many others in the corporate global space, startups, small businesses and non-profits.

This writing serves as an exercise in thinking about design, the current landscape of design, and what might the future designer need to encompass for design to evolve and succeed amidst the changing global cultural landscape.

The idea of the term “metamodernism” serves as a framework to observe and describe a sensibility happening within culture.  The first half of this book discusses views on design and culture and the last half explores how the designer might approach the future of design related to these observations. Within these two sections, I try to describe and articulate the ideas around “metamodernism” and how we came to be within that movement today.

It’s been a long journey of success and failure within the work of design. This book is a collection of thoughts and observations collected over time through working on large and small design projects, leading teams, failing in startups, writing code, building apps, creating album art, designing brands and building platforms and campaigns for some of the biggest companies in the world.

This book doesn’t provide specific answers to become a great designer through practice and technique, but provokes you to think about the observations laid out to create a new place to observe, think and find new ways to apply design for the future.

DEFINING DESIGN

Design is not solely limited to our understanding in the visual, architectural or interactive sense. Design transcends the traditional ideas of the discipline and extends into a meaningful and purposeful approach to systems, thinking, digital, environmental, and development.

Design is about solving problems. The design process is about scaffolding your steps to discover the best solution for the challenge. I am a firm believer in a scaffolding approach where you discover, research, and then prototype to test and validate before creating a final design solution. The sum of those parts are all design, though many view the output as the definition of design.

Not just prototype an end product or service. I’m talking about prototyping the creative thinking to find the solution. Prototype your ideas and then explore all possibilities to make products or services from those ideas and align them to your early vision. 

Design is problem solving

Design is problem solving. But with solving a problem, have we created others in the process? Why continue to design if the end result is a fleeting pursuit of constantly trying to fix and solve additional problems created from solving an initial problem? We cannot tackle all the world’s problems. Or can we? And through what value system? Must we destroy the modern structures to build new ones? We must only solve problems that create a new sense of power through a postmodern lens?

All of these things should be measured differently.

Design is about envisioning a new future and building  solutions to the challenges that keep us from the manifestation of that future. Looking at past problems, past best practices, past success, past failures and finding a way to navigate through compounding problems from flawed design over time to create better products or services.

But what if – designing better products, services and solutions for the future means building a better humanity in the present? What if better design isn’t about building on top of the current societal systems of modernism and postmodernism, but applying both movements to our work in the sense of building a better structure of humanity.

Build a better self. Build a better existence. Build a better life. Build better design.

For example:

  • A poorly designed product can have the best intentions.
  • A struggling business can have beautiful design.
  • A great business with beautiful design can be successful.
  • A struggling business with poor design can fail.
  • A great business with beautiful design can fail.
  • A struggling business with poor design can succeed.

A modernist outlook would say that the success or failure of the design of the business is contingent on the strength of the system.

A postmodernist outlook would say that the success or failure of the design of the business is because of lack of support, lack of resources or the success is true, but not measured in dollars and profits.

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