I've had the opportunity to be involved with a very diverse array of projects, touching creative fields from technology-driven interactions to 35mm film to physical sculpture to food. I'd be hard pressed to declare a specialty, but when I look at these undertakings I see a strong similarity and a clear continuity. Whether the role's been called designer, director, producer, whether cat herder or cat, the process has been the same: the discovery of the underlying form of an idea.
How do we provide a friction free experience for a user on a website? How do we create a product that feels intuitive, that works (or appears to work) exactly how you imagined it would? How do we surprise and delight an audience? How do we convey an emotion? A design leader’s role is to figure out the answers through applied tools and talent. A problem becomes a chalice that fills with people, passion, and solutions: a shape that is difficult to see until it has begun to fill up. Hard work starts to create form, and strong, focused solutions take beautiful forms. The attractive surfaces often identified as good design are the downstream artifacts of a problem properly solved. I believe that the greatest compliment that one can give to a work of design, from a feature film to a wearable device to a print ad, is not that it is beautiful, or minimalist, or brilliant. The best thing one can say about great design is that it is realized.
Realized design achieves its power and scope from the original idea. The idea had better be good. But if it is a good idea (and in my experience the ones we chase, the ones we can rally others to chase as well, are often pretty good) then the design owes the idea a large debt. For it is upon the idea's foundation that form takes shape. It is the design leader's goal to protect the spirit of that idea and to nourish the form to the very best expression of that original dream.
Sometimes realizing an idea's true potential is an afternoon's work - more often, it may call for a years of iteration and refinement. This approach requires commitment, but it provides this one simple piece of clarity: a place from which to start the journey.