The Identity Crisis of Design

Vinita Israni, Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract

The general population does not easily understand what design is (and is not) as a discipline. More surprisingly, designers have a hard time articulating the value of design. There is no universal lexicon, unifying institution, or tangible framework for understanding design that currently exists, allowing for many different philosophies, approaches, and definitions of the subjects, each justified in its own right but leading to inconsistent perceptions of the field of design overall.

The purpose of this thesis is to take these inconsistent definitions of design and attempt to create a common understanding. The value of this communication will help broaden the understanding of design as a discipline, in turn providing both monetary and emotional value for designers.

After considerable research with design educators, students, and professionals, the opportunity space to create a framework for methods for reflection and communication arose. The proposed solution, Design Dive, is a 21-day design challenge aimed to help designers (both practitioners and students) better articulate and communicate the nature of their work. The challenge is broken up into a discrete daily activity to be carried out by the participant in less than 10 minutes per day. The activities range in design methods, from defining design as a discipline to defining a more personal definition based on a designer’s trajectory and workflow. The online component provides a platform through which the activities can be documented, shared, compared, and critiqued.