When people approach me and ask what I do, I often tell them I am a designer. It is pretty unfair on my part to assume that everyone who approaches me understands what a designer is or does. The term "designer" would be very ambiguous to the average person. He'd start thinking about the endless possibilities of what kind of designer I am. "Does he work as a fashion designer? Is he a graphic designer? Is he into designing interiors? Or is he an industrial designer?" Having these doubts is reasonable, in my opinion! They continue to believe that I have an excellent artistic sense and taste and that my job is to create something aesthetically pleasing.
Even though I believe I have an incredible artistic sense and taste, I do not expect everyone else to accept or appreciate what I do. Why so? Because everyone's preferences, likes, and dislikes are entirely subjective. The term "aesthetic" is also quite variable in this context. What one person finds attractive or appealing may not endear to another. This is applicable in a variety of situations. For example, you may be a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr., but your friend may not be. Hugh Jackman might be his preferred choice. While you prefer heavy metal music, your friend may enjoy Indian classical music. You may enjoy hot steamed dumplings, but your friend may choose street-style Indo-Chinese.
Given that we're talking about art and aesthetics, I believe the most relatable situation would be in an art museum. Have you ever been to an art museum where people adorn paintings or sculptures, and you simply cannot comprehend what they see? To put it another way, you do not really understand what makes those people tick. You may believe that the painting is overrated or isn't even swoon-worthy. You simply do not understand the hype! This could be due to a variety of reasons. You may lack adequate knowledge of the art form or style, the specific style may not resonate with you despite having the knowledge, or you simply do not find it appealing! And, to burst your bubble, it's perfectly normal to feel this way! It's neither criminal nor unacceptable. Many people dislike Van Gough's work and style for various reasons. If you like Van Gough's work, you can't pick a fight with every person you meet who doesn't.
As a designer, my primary goal is to eliminate the widespread misconception that designers create 'aesthetic' designs. Margaret Wolfe Hungerford correctly stated that "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." We can speculate that an individual's senses eventually help determine whether or not they are inclined towards a particular experience. But are we now mixing up design and art? Certainly not. Science, psychology, semantics, a mass mindset, and people's collective opinion are the driving factors behind a design. The goal of design is not simply to create something beautiful or, as previously discussed, "aesthetic". Exactly because beauty, like aesthetics, is entirely subjective. The perception of the idea or standard of beauty is entirely dependent on the individual's mindset.
When most people see a body of water, they experience a sense of calm or coolness. Similarly, the sight of a scorching sun or a dry desert makes them feel hot and uneasy. These experiences, which resulted in certain perceptions, gradually transformed humans into associating specific colours with specific emotions and behaviours, popularly termed 'Colour Psychology. Red, for instance, is associated with emotions such as love, anger, danger, and youth. Green is associated with feelings of tranquillity, serenity, growth, and health. Each colour represents a distinct range of emotions. Colour psychology is widely used when brands design their logos, as the colour chosen represents the brand's personality and vision.
This is exactly what a designer's job entails. A designer is anyone who can comprehend and apply this understanding to the designs to suit the requirements of the majority of the masses. Let us consider the term "designer" in a broader sense. Returning to the human senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste, each person's liking or preference for a particular sense differs from that of the other person.
When it comes to taste, everyone has a unique taste preference. A sweeter palette may be preferred by some people, whereas spicier foods may be preferred by others. A chef who can curate a palette that caters to the tastes of the majority of people in the restaurant's neighbourhood is also a good designer. A more straightforward example would be a fruit vendor who understands which fruits are in high demand in a specific area. A residential complex with residents who prefer imported fruits may be drawn in by the sight of exotic fruits such as dragon fruits and passion fruits on the vendor's cart.
On the other hand, a neighbourhood with a majority of middle-class or older residents may have relatively basic fruit preferences. Exotic or imported fruits displayed on the cart would not be profitable for the vendor. Here, the fruit vendor designs his cart to maximise his profits, thereby making him a designer as well. The characteristics that contribute to a good designer and a good design are empathizing with the audience, calculating analytics, and soliciting customer feedback. Empathy is essential in making a business sustainable, whether it is a large chain or a small local vendor. Consider a paan shop in your neighbourhood. The vendor is well aware of the customers who visit his shop on a daily basis and at what times of the day. These people do not return to the same shop because of the quality of the paan. They could probably get the same quality paans at another vendor's shop for the same price.
The vendor empathizes with his customers, which is why these customers keep returning to this particular shop. He knows which customer visits the shop at what time and ensures that the customer's preferred choice of paan is available when he visits. Indian vendors have such empathy for their customers that they can only visit the shop twice, and the vendor knows exactly what they want from then on. In the case of the paan shop, the vendor will see his customer approaching the shop and will simply hand out the customer's preferred paan without having to ask for them. We can term this way of thinking "design thinking".
When we discuss design thinking, we discover that we are all very familiar with this way of thinking. Just as businesses must put themselves in the shoes of their target audience to understand their needs and requirements and then develop products or services that meet those needs and empathize with them, so must we with our partners or parents. When you put yourself in your partner's shoes and begin empathizing with them, you will gain an understanding of what to say and when to say certain things that will help you please your partner and reduce the chances of you both getting into an unnecessary argument. As we grow older, we develop an excellent ability to analyze our parents' behaviour and mood. This understanding allows us to craft our actions and words in a way that increases the likelihood of our parents agreeing with our proposition rather than immediately rejecting it.
In simple words, all we do is empathize with someone and adapt to that empathy. Similarly, on a business front, when you empathize with the masses and adapt to that empathy in your business activities, it eventually helps your business grow.
Going back to where we began, if I say that everyone is a designer, you might wonder what the difference is between a fruit vendor and me. A corporate designer is someone capable of building and expanding a business to a larger or better scale. I call myself a corporate designer, but I believe that you do not have to be a designer to understand design. Why? Because design can be found everywhere! Design can be found in your everyday existence. It is not only what you see but also how it functions and how it impacts and affects the masses. What is the common thread that holds it all together? “Design Thinking!”
This article and the content is copyright protected. Copyrights: Dhruva S. Paknikar 2022.