Photo by Neal Fowler
The heart and humanity of design. When I first discussed this with my colleagues, I was convinced that the great Frank Lloyd Wright’s design philosophies were somehow losing their impact on younger designers. I barely received a serious reply; instead, I was bombarded with nondescript whining that left the entire topic almost unnoticed.
Who would listen to a 51-year old team head who talks about humanity and heart in design? There was no Internet then and you, designers from the old times had no choice, nor was it our fault, I heard a bleakly delivered response from the youngest member of our team.
Yesterday, it was immersion; now, it is plain Web interaction
I never design a building before I have seen the site and met the people who will be using it. – Frank Lloyd Wright
Before I shifted to Web and Ad design, I used to draw blueprints for metropolitan structures. I was a chief architect for a construction firm and my main task, next to drafting building interiors, was to experience and understand the building environment even if the structure was still in the process of evaluation and inspection. Since our firm’s owner was a diehard Frank Lloyd Wright believer and follower, he shaped the company in line with the popular architect/educator’s philosophies.
Upon deployment, we were sure of our goal: to create a five-story central market that would connect the two progressive towns divided by a prairie, a small community that had been affected by the bushfire. When we first stepped on the site, the only thing in our minds was accomplishing that goal. The life of the people who lived there had never crossed our minds. Our boss had one instruction: experience the prairie life while doing our respective jobs.
My first team assignment was in a grassland (a burnt prairie) located in the middle of two progressive towns. At first, of course, I found it weird. I could not get the point of experiencing the prairie life if it would eventually change once we erected our design. While the rest of my team could not understand why our company wanted us to live in that area for three weeks, I, as a team leader, adhered to what our company had instructed us. Instead of whining, we began building our tents, assembled drafting tables and other foldable furniture, and started doing our job.
Since we were new to that area, we had to interact with neighboring farmhouse owners to get accustomed with our new life. And as these friendly locals helped us find the nearest marketplace and other town landmarks that could be essential to our project, we gradually became familiarized with their lives and with their needs.
After three weeks of immersion, we were summoned by the company to file our reports and design investigation containing the initial blueprints and feasibility study documents. We had submitted it to the design committee and waited for a week to receive our next task. Since we had sincerely put our hearts into the project, we were confident that there would be no problems with our initial work. However, the design committee never said anything that satisfied our conclusions; they just instructed us to redesign everything from scratch, according to what we had learnt the entire three weeks of immersion.
We were surprised by what the design committee had told us. They said that they nullified our first work because our initial design was not congruent to the idea of our feasibility study. According to their written report, our design had failed to respond to our goal and to the needs of the bushfire victims and the two neighboring towns. After some meetings and brainstorming, we had realized that our boss wanted us to learn the real essence of designing.
In Web design
In the environment and industry of Web design, immersion will definitely cause a delay. Definitely, there is no point in visiting our clients’ buildings and factories just for us to have the firsthand understanding of what they do. We now have the power of the Internet to search everything we want to know. Yet on the other hand, many designers, especially the younger ones, are abusing this power. It turned many designers into apathetic ones; they became overly dependent on the Internet.
The absence of immersion from your client’s world eliminated the “heart and humanity” in many designs today.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said that a design without ‘heart and humanity’ does not have a purpose, and this purpose can only be achieved by understanding and knowing the reason behind the design, and this reason, should be the people.
Technology delays the creative process
Long ago, the course of turning a client’s brief into a real physical product happened through physical, face-to-face meetings. And even if telephones, beepers, and tablet-size mobile phones were already present at that time, designers and clients still opted to handle every design process physically. Today, the presence of over-the-edge communication technologies has shelved this old tradition; everyone prefers design brief discussion through phone, email, or social networking sites.
The elimination of face-to face meetings has ruined the foundation of client-designer relationship. These modern technologies set limitations on those designer and clients who cannot express themselves or convey an idea through technical and professional writing. While we all know that in face-to-face, personal and physical experience, everything can be possible, even if this involves two “not-so-technically-skilled” parties.