Extraordinary Experience #15: If it isn’t designed it’s JANK.

Everything is designed. Everyone is a designer. So, where does that leave us?

Think about it. Step outside your day and look at your world. You drive in a designed car or take a designed train. You live in a designed house or a designed flat. You work on a designed computer, unless you use a PC (small bit of humor). You wear designed outerwear and underwear. You work at a designed desk and perhaps sit in a designed chair. You eat designed meals and read designed books. You walk through designed cities and communities. So, is everything designed?

What does it mean to say everything is designed? Is it only about aesthetics? A parallel question goes out to business and commerce, is it all about the bottom line?

Can’t be. That’s jank. [See a definition for jank below.]

Here’s how we see it. Not all things are designed. Some things are just created. Some people and organizations have a “that’s good enough” attitude. This leaves design to represent those items, intangibles and experiences that are approached from a more thoughtful perspective. Thus translating to a method, belief system and group of people who take a more holistic approach.

So, design = something thoughtfully planned and non-design = jank.

Not everyone thinks like a designer, even some with a designer title. Some are capable of producing beautiful works of art and aesthetically pleasing design [which shouldn’t be discounted], but they are still not design-thinkers. If design is to be used as a business strategy platform, it needs to be clear what good design actually is, right? And, if it’s only aesthetics then buildings would be falling down all around us. The reference is subtle, but important.

While I haven’t seen one winning answer to the good/bad design challenge, we do know how to foster an environment where design thinking thrives. Here are some methods to develop design thinking in your organization.

  • Start with a collaborative environment where ideas are shared early and often. The physical space shouldn’t be underestimated because it makes tremendous contribution.
  • Gather a group of people with varied disciplines and backgrounds capable of getting specific work done. Then, infuse in them a belief system around what your design philosophy means.
  • Provide the minimum necessary tools and resources to get the work done, but not the maximum requested.
  • Pay a reasonable salary and reward the results of their work, not fiscally.
  • Give a broad picture of what success looks and feels like, then let the effort begin. Keep in tune with what’s being done, but stay out unless you’re deep in it daily.

This is merely one facet of the argument for design as a business strategy. The extraordinary experience for me was when I observed businesses like P&G, Target, and Apple using design as a business strategy platform. It left me with a warm feeling inside and an extraordinary experience to tell.

So, the question, is your business strategy designed or are you set up to just get it done [whatever it is]?

Put more clearly, are you jank or are you designed?

Aaron Keller
Managing Principal,

Jank [def]: broken, superfluous, meaningless, stupid, ridiculously moronic, or of questionable quality.



Most Popular