The designer's curse: Scratch the itch

Introduction
Creative people see things in new ways, transfer information from one problem to another, and make connections where none existed. George Bernard Shaw (and later, Robert Kennedy) once said something like,

      Some people see things as they are and ask: Why?
      I see things as they could be and ask: Why not?


Designers (creative problem solvers) see connections that did not previously exist, transfer information from one problem to another, see possibilities that are not immediately obvious, and are constantly honing their analytical ability to solve problems. Though we are all bothered by the little annoyances caused by products or systems that we know could be done better, designers are the ones who respond with "there must be a better way". They then set out to find such a solution, sometimes just in their own minds and sometimes for actual production. Good designers are constantly redesigning their environment. They hone their problem solving skills by practicing, often subconsciously, the process of design wherever and whenever they seek problems.

Your more sophisticated sense of aesthetics, sequential order, and efficient communication of information sets you apart from non-designers. This project allows you to practice your problem solving skills by responding to the designer's curse: that innate desire to make things better, find a better answer, or produce a better solution. Sometime recently you were probably somewhere and felt a bit uncomfortable about the design solution to a product or process. That itch should be slightly annoying. As a problem solving designer, have the courage to do something about that itch: redesign the product, place, or procedure. Make it better.

Procedure
Analyze the itches that bother your sense of design, practicality, and inconvenience. There should be plenty. If there are not, practice being more analytical and more aware of products and systems that could be done better. Create a new product (or products) or develop a new system that satisfies a need in the marketplace, makes something better, and benefits a segment of society. The new product or system must be original/novel and practical/useful. If it is not original then it is not a way to make something better. If it is not practical then it will be too hard to promote in the marketplace. Use the worksheet as a guide: conduct background assessment, develop the product or system, and formulate a promotion and marketing plan.

The Design Process
Assessment
Recall where the itch last struck or now be aware of when the itch strikes. Visit the place: restaurant, store, office, school, etc. Analyze the current situation. Determine the specific design problem. What objectives were achieved (or should have been). What are the primary and secondary target markets.
Feed/input
Learn about the situation and the place: observe the users, take notes, and conduct research. Critique all aspects of the problem: materials used, arrangement of elements, information communication, use of space, architecture, interior, traffic flow, graphics, etc.
Incubation
Allow your mind to explore, create, and solve.
Retrieve/output
Thumbnails, ideas, concepts, brainstorming, roughs, design decisions, compromises, fine tuning,and final decisions.
Presentation
Make an oral presentation describing how you soothed the itch. Include a critique of the existing design solution (why does it not work?), and recommendations to make it work better. Be thorough and specific. You may use maps, charts, photos, renderings, models, or anything else that will help communicate clearly your improved solution.

Purpose
• Experience, appreciate, and enjoy the designer's curse.
• Practice scratching the itch.
• Become more aware of the surrounding environment.
• Objectively critique design quality and execution.
• Develop assertiveness and courage to feel comfortable reworking someone else's design solutions.
• Work through the steps of creating a product: assessment, research, concept, sketches, comp, and presentation.
• Practice communicating a concept and solution with clarity and ease of comprehension.
• Grow as a problem seeking and problem solving designer.

El Lissitzsky's equation for design
Problem, Invention, Art

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/scratchitch.html