It hasn’t taken long, but it feels now is the time to propose the first provocation since arriving in WA: design trumps art. (Design Trumps Art?)
In a rhetorical sense, perhaps what you’re about to read is truly ‘Trumpist’ in tone. Here goes…
I’ve spent part of today outside of the School discussing ways of connecting with areas outside of the field and then listening to a broader discussion on research at Curtin and how (in 2015-16 at least), we are lagging behind our competitors in terms of research funding.
On both occasions, I came away with two clear ideas that help to justify why design matters.
Firstly, WA and Perth has a burgeoning start-up scene, encouraged in no small part by initiatives led or supported by Curtin: CSIRO’s OnPrime, Curtin’s Kickstart, Innovation Awards, Accelerate, and Ignition programmes and other initiatives such as SpaceCubed, Flux, Core and Bloom. In all these programmes and services there is scope for design (and particularly communication design and design strategy) to help turn nascent ideas into realisable social or commercial ventures. The possibilities and amount of work are substantial, real and – even in the short term – are likely to bring true economic and social benefit to the region. Whether it is working on the user-experience on a product in the health domain or developing a believable new brand to secure financial investment, designers are needed here.
Secondly, at the Curtin Research Summit hosted by Professor Brett Kirk, where the wicked problem of how to improve our research performance across the University was substantiated by data charts galore, there is a clear and recognisable role for information design to make sense of the tidal wave of information thrown at the audience. Through the application of simple design principles for communication and a possible role for design thinking in helping to make decisions or support researchers in developing their research, it is clear that design can play a significant part in changing behaviour and performance.
We encounter problems like these every day in every university. They are potentially complex ones that require critical thinking, synthesis and clarity of communication. Is there an artist who can apply their communication competency to solving such complex problems? I doubt it. Is there a designer who could? There are many. For today at least – design trumps art. Art may well enhance our cultural lives in ways that designers cannot. Designers, however, can solve the problems of today that help us interrogate, develop and live in the real world.