Communicating Design to Non-Designers

Now that I've almost completed my Master's in Industrial Design, I've been struggling with how to communicate what I do to people that confuse different disciplines of design with each other. Part of what gives rise to this confusion is figuring out the role the designer should play within an organization, as part of a team, as a freelancer, and even as an entrepreneur. The problem I've encountered with clients is the perception of design. They perceive design as its end result, which is aesthetics, feelings, a sense of ease while savoring a well designed experience or interaction. I use the word experience very loosely, and as an umbrella term for products, services, systems of people, corporations, etc.

Being a designer, I've been trying to frame this problem of client perception in various ways, and I've been prototyping various explanations and I'm going to present the latest iteration:

Design is a problem solving process that encompasses two major parts. The first is researching and framing a problem, the second is prototyping and iterating a solution. Transitioning from the first to the second part requires synthesis and analysis on the subject being studied.

Since I'm receiving a master's degree, people tell me I'm supposed to be an expert in something. I'd argue that I'm an expert in a process as opposed to being an expert in a specific field. This process is sometimes called design thinking, and other times people call it human centered design or fourth order design. It leverages anthropology, psychology, and sociology to make sense of the human experience in order to research and frame a problem. For prototyping and iterating solutions, we leverage digital and physical tools: borrow processes from engineering and graphic and product design, to business modeling and service design.

I've been having difficulty figuring out a role for myself within an organization and how I should present myself because every job opportunity I've had thus far has been from word of mouth, meeting and talking, and occasionally brainstorming to show some of these design thinking tools in action.

More to come as I spend time thinking about my role as a designer within an organization, and my role in our current society and as an entrepreneur.


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