Design Currency Discussion

Davin Greenwell, February 04, 2021 at 8:38 PM
Lets begin with a difficult question: How do you make a calculator that will measure the value of design? Part of me feels like completely defining the value of design, or attempting to do it emperically, is much like asking the question "where is the rainbow?" Depending on where you stand, it's going to appear to be in a different place...

As design is geared towards specific audiences, the value will shift depending on who you are: where do you stand? So then questions follow such as: "how valuable is the audience, and how valuable is that which this design connects them with?" I don't yet understand how you answer that question - how convenient, considering design week is coming up and we get to talk about it in person. From here, we get into philosophical, political, and business realms, far above the clouds of technical graphic design rollout. We now sit, comfortably, in the ethos of strategic visual communication.

Here is where our discussion will fork. One debate is the value of design as a noun, the other debate is about the value of design as a verb: the design itself versus the process of design. There are deep reasons for exploring both directions.  And so it has been my privilege to observe and participate in such a debate with those who are actively involved in putting together Design Week Vancouver.

"The selecting of criteria is probably one of the key questions at the very heart of any exploration of design’s currency ... Our challenge as a group is to decide which criteria to use."
- Ian Grais

"The complexity arises when we, as designers, insist on getting across—as we should—that, although there is intrinsic value in the end product, there is often greater value in the process that led to it ... Clients often have a much greater understanding and respect for design after they’ve gone through the process."
- Isabelle Swiderski MA MGDC |

"One of the biggest roadblocks to evaluating any design properly is not knowing enough about it. It’s intention, it’s paramaters and restrictions… These aspects can completely change ones perspective on a piece."
- Miles Harrison |

What criteria is most important?

What information is missing or non-obvious?

What is this useful for - who will use such information?

There is a lot of value in asking such questions and figuring out what - exactly - it is that we do that is so important. It isn't just wearing glasses with big bold rims. Design brings the noun and the verb together. What everyone sees outside of the creative room is the end result of the design process: the conclusion; the noun of design.

 So here is a starting point for some discussion that will be ongoing before, during and after Design Week Vancouver.  I've conjured this matrix to house some of the ideas circulating in regards to design value criteria:
  Noun Verb
Return on Investment
Delivery Time
Return on Investment
Competitive Advantage
Social Impact
Stakeholder Engagement

Perhaps the value of design needs to be evaluated on a case by case purpose, taking qualitative and quantitative factors into consideration. Are we up for such explorations? Of course we are; design itself is the answer to hard questions in the first place.

No doubt there are many more criteria that could fit into this table. What are some of your ideas? What quadrant is best suited to a calculator application? How are these criteria to be weighted? What is missing?