Why do we do what we do?

When we use the word ‘design’ people often think we are referring to what a thing, a piece of clothing or a logo looks and feels like. But is that all design is? And is it all design can be? Over the years we came to the conclusion that in order to really design for a sustainable world the design-object should be subordinate to the people and environment you are designer for and we realized that in order to do that we had to redesign and define what design was for us – which resulted in a blog and a research project called: AmIaDesigner which later on morphed into this company.

How it all started? We love being creative, inquisitive and to be in a position to develop new things, work with passionate people and instigate change. But we hated being part and maybe even being a representative of our modern day consumption based economy. Why is it that product designers like us these days design so many disposable products? About 99% of the products currently bought by western consumers (and designed by product designers) will be trash in only six months’ time. Can we, rich westerners, only live how we live because so many people (in developing countries) are poor? And why is the success of enterprises mainly measured by how much profit they generate and not by the quality of their products, the happiness of their employees or the happiness of their clients? Should we start looking for new professions if we want to contribute to a more sustainable future, or might there be something wrong with our perception and definition of our own profession? What is a designer? And how can they contribute to a better world?

In 2011 Boukje and Jeroen decided to take some time off in order to find out how they, as designers , entrepreneurs and lecturers, can be part of a more sustainable future. They tried to find answers to this question by travelling to eight countries on five continents in five months. During their trip they (a) visited designers and entrepreneurs that are trying to make a difference in the world and asked them for their ‘recipes’ for success (b) started a discussion on the value of entrepreneurship and design by giving public lectures and through a blog (c) tested the boundaries and opportunities of design and design principles like co-design and human centered design by applying related methodologies and theory to real cases (d) contributed a little bit to sustainable development themselves by sharing our own knowledge through workshops, training sessions, consultancy, design, business development etc.

The trip generated some very concrete output:
  • We found a new believe in the positive impact design can have! But in order maximize this impact in the future, the design-object should become subordinate to the people and environment you are designer for. For us this means a shift in focus from designing physical artifacts to hiring out designers as facilitators of the design process and to training other people how to use these tools and processes.
  •  We can all be the designers of our own innovations; big or small! If we retain this powerful tool to only the design world it will never become as impactful as we need it to be. So we need to put time and effort in translating the design process so it can be used by doctors, secretaries, school kids, villages, NGO’s etc. etc. as -well.
  • Design is not enough! Design is only valuable and sustainable if it is implemented sustainably, therefore we looked at innovation and entrepreneurship tools, principles and mindsets and we combined them into an unique toolkit taking the best of both worlds we now refer to as our AIaD toolkit.
  • All the workshops we gave, methods we tested and the insights on the process of instigating positive change by the visited designers and entrepreneurs resulted in a new innovation process methodology: the Human Centered Innovation (HCI) canvasses.
  • The desire to personally spend more time on the subject and to show other designers and people in general that there is a viable business model behind human centered design resulted in the start of AmIaDesigner as a company which was launched in September 2013.
  • All the people that supported us during the trip slowly start to become a community of Human Centered Designers. Over time we want to keep supporting all these people in collaborating with each other, reaching their goals, sharing their experiences, evaluating their effectiveness or in short: designing a better world.