In 1919, Walter Gropius founded in Germany the Bauhaus, a school for engineering and design, and gave birth to one of the most important and influential design movements in history: Modernism. Gropius' big idea was that designers and engineers should collaborate closely in order to build phenomenal products. Later, in the mid-1950s, Braun adopted this approach and had phenomenal success in building signature products, many of which were commercial hits, made huge impact on people's lives and are now museum exhibits.
If you want to trace back Apple's design ethos, this is where it all started. But Apple didn't only borrow the design language from Braun. It also borrowed the process. Apple's design process is based on the same close collaboration between engineers and product designers. This process guarantees stunning results. It is time to bring this approach to software startups. In order to do that though, designers have to first reset their mindsets.
The Problem With Designers Today
At some point along the way, something went wrong. Whether it is design education, or the booming advertising industry in the 60s, designers focused their talent on designing collateral and marketing materials rather than designing products. This led to beautifully designed advertising campaigns for what were mostly mediocre products. Maybe it was a pure case of following the money.
Even then, instead of focusing on creating great design that will make an impact, designers were more obsessed with receiving awards from their colleagues, winning philosophical design debates and building exclusive member-only organizations that will accept only the "best" designers. The worst effect of that is that many talented designers got stuck in this cult are wasting their careers focusing on the wrong things, oftentimes working on projects with little, or no value, to other people's lives.
Many of the designers who did transition to the web are still infected with this old mindset. As a result, instead of product designers, we got web stylists. I'm constantly amazed by how much energy is going into debating gradients, icons, shadows or organizing design contests and giving various awards. I'm not the only one who thinks it is a waste of time.
Time To Join A Software Startup
Most of the people who lived in the end of the 18th century had no idea that they are living through the industrial revolution. That was because it took several decades until this period in human history was acknowledged as revolutionary and was awarded the name The Industrial Revolution. It is highly likely that the same thing will happen 50 years down the road regarding the period in time we're living through now.
The opportunity to build life-changing products by writing software is nothing short of mind blowing. Who could imagine 20 years ago that a bunch of folks with computers will change the way we find information, connect with our friends or buy new products? Yes, software is eating the world.
There is one group of people who seemed to miss that. It is time for designers to step out of their comfort zone, stop wasting time on meaningless projects, and join software startups that want to change the lives of many people for the better through building fantastic products. The great thing about these environments is the designer's opportunity to collaborate with brilliant engineers rather than with marketing executives. Together, they can build the future.
Image Credit: Alex Roberts (Bovinity), Accessed on Flickr