Frequently Unasked Questions About Design

A Typewriter

Here is an excerpt from an article I contributed to Fast Company’s Co. Design and just published today. It’s titled “Design Discourse Is In a State of Arrested Development,” and it digs into the issue of how we’re talking about our profession—and how we’re writing about it.

We are lucky to have designers actively sharing knowledge, but we’re starved for good journalism and criticism. In some ways, we’re even averse to it. Our tendency is to focus on techniques and tools, and to ignore the deeper questions. And it’s not just that we’re unwilling to examine our failures; we’re just as likely to focus only on the superficial aspects of our successes, too.

This is largely a function of what has become design’s overriding imperative, the one qualification that defers all others: conversion. Did the design turn a visitor into a subscriber, a reader into a prospect, a casual user into a registered member, a shopper into a customer? Did the design induce the user to click again? And, ideally, again and again? If the answer is yes, then nearly everything else is shunted to the side.

And it’s here that those questions about design’s larger meaning in our society and culture go unasked. Amid all the focus on clicks, no one bothers to wonder: Is what was designed actually in the long-term interests of its users? Does it model healthy or unhealthy interactions and behaviors? Does it strengthen the long-term relationship between the brand and its customers? How does it contribute to the way people relate to technology, media, and to one another? Is the design aesthetically good or bad? And why?

It’s a good summary of my thoughts on this current situation and I encourage you to read it. The full article is at