The Approach to Design in 2017

01/03/2017 By Kadie Yale

I’ve been staring at this page trying to think of a positive way to begin this editorial. Usually I don’t have any issue finding the silver lining, but as I am writing this, it’s a couple weeks before January 1, and all I can think is thank goodness 2016 is over. It really wrung us out. The design world is still reeling from losing some of the greatest minds we’ve seen, including Dame Zaha Hadid and Bing Thom. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. It’s easy to feel frustrated and lost.

But a lot of wonderful things happened in 2016 as well, and that’s a thought that can keep me looking forward with optimism at 2017. For one, I had nearly 30 friends welcome brand-new babies into their lives. That means in the next year, 30 new little people will be introduced to art through the timeless medium of Crayola and blank printer paper (that’s how Monet got his start … right?). Thirty new little people will build mini worlds with blocks and Legos. Thirty new little people will discover Dr. Seuss.

I love children because I feel like the mind of a designer is that of a child, just with a better grasp of what the color “chartreuse” actually is. We’re curious creatures willing to bend traditional rules in the name of beauty. We are easily inspired by things around us. A designer is just someone who never grew out of the question “why?”

I spent a couple of hours talking about this with my good friend Bryan Kobe, who just graduated from graduate school where he studied design. There’s a lot of uncertainty when you’ve just graduated—I remember the feeling well—and these days that uncertainty is even stronger. We’re at this precipice of a new age of design (at least in my opinion); we’re sitting between how things used to be done, and the rapidly expanding technology and results of studies regarding how to live a more wellness-centered life in body, mind, and spirit—if you wish to call it that. Others may choose to call “spirit” something more along the lines of “thoughtfulness” or “holism” or “balance between self and the world around us.”

Recent graduates are standing in the in-between: There’s that desire to come bursting out of school with all that pent-up creativity they’ve been honing over the years, building Gehry-esque monoliths that suddenly come face-to-face with the realities of the industry—namely budgets, time constraints, and clients who don’t see our vision as we do.

But even in uncertainty, with so much knowledge at our fingertips yet so many constraints coming in from every side, the job of the designer is very child-like. How do we turn this mess of sticks, mud, and backyard flotsam into worthwhile design? How do we become the people and create the places that keep design moving forward into the future?

Our second-annual Designer of the Year, Todd Bracher, definitely embodies the desire to constantly question the world around us and to create from what is available (p. 68). He brings a thoughtfulness to product design, allowing the concept to be evolved from nothingness. And our Report on the recently opened Museum of African American History & Culture is the embodiment of “places” by looking at our history objectively while firmly planting that narrative in the present.

It is my pleasure to journey into that future with you, our readers, and looking forward to a year of delving even further into the people and places that make our industry so unique.
Kadie Yale | Editor in Chief