Trans•form
MFA Design Thesis
You can’t go through graduate school, or any long committed program of learning and practice and leave the same person you started. I myself decided to pursue an advanced degree in communication design, the field I had been actively practicing and loving for over twenty years. When I first started as an undergraduate the program was called commercial arts. Then later referred to as communication design. What we’re called, what we do, and how we do it are always changing. What design is can best be answered by the AIGA, the American Institute of Graphic Arts organization.
“Communication design, is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.” — AIGA.
The roles of a designer are changing as companies are recognizing the value that designers bring to a business, impacting the perceived value of a company as well as directly affecting their bottom line. As creatives we are taking more of a strategic role in businesses as well as becoming leaders in design thinking, a process of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems.
Developed by IDEO founder David Kelley, design thinking is defined as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
So who is a designer?
“First and foremost, designers are keen observers and lovers of beautiful and useful objects, messages, and experiences. They pay attention as they move through their day, possessing a hyper awareness of the visual and textual world around them. They make connections and ask questions about how those objects and messages work, what they are, what things look like, and what they mean.” AIGA
From the AIGA: Designers have a desire to make and customize things they haven’t seen before, and then share them. Observations lead to wondering what something that doesn’t exist yet would look like, and oftentimes the only way to know what it would be like is to make it. This curiosity is at the core of the designer, and doesn’t always make sense to everyone else. Designers are also obsessed with clear communication. They obsess over misunderstandings, mistranslations, misappropriations, and missed connections, looking for possible solutions, especially when language doesn’t feel sufficient. Coupled with this is usually a restless desire for order. Designers have a need for completing things, revealing relationships, and simplifying complicated things. Finally, design requires both introversion and extroversion. A good designer is able to really get close to a problem or project and can work long hours alone towards a solution. At the same time, a designer is an expert in reading people and navigating the needs and desires of a client to eventually shape the experience of the end user. This requires a sense of observation that is not limited to the world of objects and messages, but extends to the relationships humans have with those objects and with each other.People often become designers because they feel like fulfilling one interest is not enough. An interest in language may point the way towards a life crafting words. An interest in order and structure may lead to an engineering career. An interest in making meaningful things may lead to studying art. An interest in people may lead to studying sociology, psychology, economics, or business. And any combination of these interests will find a home in design.
 

As I look at the above statement, I wonder if we are always looking for a new problem to solve, will we ever be satisfied once we solve it? Is it in our nature to always be seeking, asking questions, and trying to find the best answer? But once we have that answer, will we seek a whole new problem? To trans•form means to change (something) completely and usually in a good way.

 
As designers we are always trans•forming ourselves and our work. Read the thesis.
See the data visualization series based on a design survey as part of the research.
 
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