Interview with Heather Fraser

Davin Greenwell, April 19, 2020 at 9:05 PM
Heather Fraser is Director of DesignWorks™ and Rotman’s Design Initiative. She is also an adjunct professor of Business Design at the Rotman School, which she joined in 2005 after over 25 years in industry. Heather describes her point of view on Design Currency in this interview.

DW: What are you looking forward to most about Design Currency 2010?

HF: I am looking forward to meeting and hearing from the fantastic line-up of people with diverse backgrounds and passions. That should define an interesting intersection of thinking. And we couldn’t have a more beautiful setting than Vancouver in the Spring.

DW: What does the conference theme “Design Currency” mean to you?

HF: Great theme. To me, it signals that the definition of design is broadening, and increasing in relevance and value.

There are narrow ways of thinking about design (it’s a logo or it’s a thing), and there are broader ways to define design (it’s an integrated experience or it’s a business). Some believe it is the profession of a few. Others believe it is the core of all professional training.

Those who embrace the broader definition have greater currency. The roster of speakers suggests that there will be a lot of currency exchanged.

DW: If design was currency, who would have the most? Who would have the least?

HF: Those who would have the most are those tap into their intuitive ‘design’ sense – those who passionately embrace the broadest principles and practices of design, whether they be an industrial designer, brand designer, communication designer, organizational designer, business designer, or any other professional that sees design as a platform for productive collaboration and value creation. These are the people who embrace volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity with optimism and ambition, and are able to leverage ‘design’ in its broadest sense to create value for people, enterprises and societies.

In the words of economist Herbert Simon (1969 Nobel Prize Winner): “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. Design, so construed, is the core of all professional training.”

DW: What criteria do you use to evaluate design?

HF: Great design recognizes the complexities of human nature and delivers sophisticated solutions in an elegant and natural form or experience.

Using the broader definition of design, I would ask 3 questions:

  • Does the ‘design’ support the purpose and values of the enterprise?
  • Does it satisfy human needs and create value in an insightful, original, fresh and desirable way?
  • Can it inspire an endless stream of ideas to further satisfy needs?

Heather Fraser will be speaking at Design Currency 2010. Learn more about her on the Heather Fraser speaker page.

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