What Does a Designer Do?
At times, literal; at other times, vague.
Designers are interstitial thinkers. Our discipline sits between business and academic, liberal arts and engineering, fine art and craft; it is interdisciplinary in its very nature.1
Instead of centering on a technical skill or a particular expressive output, Designers specialize in the ability to think from the diverse mental positions of multiple actors, to essentially move between points of view and need in order to create meaningful answers to complex challenges.
If we can accept that the immediate goal of a design is to consciously create a useful product, service, or system for different people interacting in different ways with that product, service, or system, 2 and that its success according to the interactors (not the designers) is the paramount, over-arching purpose of Design as a discipline, then taking an interstitial approach is the only way to consistently achieve that goal across projects. As interstitial thinkers, a Designer does not mind which discipline contributes most heavily to a product, service, or system, or if disciplines are put together in an unorthodox way. “Does it work for the participants 3 is the core question of design. The form that answer takes is of very little importance.
At a more general level, I think of myself and other Designers as specialists in being happy generalists. 4 We bop around different business and technical silos, taking in different viewpoints and exploring different worlds. We bring them together when we need to and separate them out when it’s advantageous to the participants. 5 This is an endlessly fascinating process, and this interdisciplinary, generalist approach seems, in my experience, to be the only way to scale strategic projects undertaken in complex spaces. 6