Design Isn't Dead. Design's Gatekeepers May Be Dying.

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by: David Armano

"In future there will be no more designers. The designers of the future will be the personal coach, the gym trainer, the diet consultant." ~Philipe Stark

Think about it.  We’re living in an age where people now have direct access to brands. Starbucks wants our ideasSouthwest Airlines talks to me on Twitter, the role of the modern day brand steward may be a little different today compared to 10 years ago. The meaning of a brand hasn’t changed—the way we interact with them has.

So I have to wonder how different this all is for the design community, if you can call it that. Just as brands have their gatekeepers—the same people who told us that Diet Coke was meant to be enjoyed, not mixed with candy for the purpose of making fountains—the design world also has gatekeepers. Or you could call them guardians, hight priests, guru’s, icons—take your pick. Indeed Philipe is probably one of them. Design’s gatekeepers guarded the secret sauce to what they deemed was "good design". They were quick to point out that not everybody recognized what it was. Some, like Stark brought "design" to the masses—not unlike Prometheus bringing us fire in ancient times. Some brands—like Target helped broaden the appeal of "designer things"—creating a mainstream demand for pretty and stylish things.

Now lots of people can design—and design means a lot of different things to different people (IE, I don’t equate design with pretty). But the tools are out there. The techniques are easy to look up. Some have gotten pretty good at design—creating the social platforms that many of us use daily to watch videos, stream content, distribute presentations, share contacts and build personal brands.  Scion’s automobiles are made to be customized. Actually—were they designed that way? Or was it Scion owners who created a culture out of sheet metal fiberglass? Apple can’t really control the design and development of both native and Web based iPhone applications—even though they give it a good shot. And directors can’t control how people choose to watch their movies even if they disagree with it.

No, design isn’t dead—especially the really good design that adds value to our lives. But the notion of design’s gatekeepers may need some additional thought as more of us begin to act like "professionals" and take on the sacred role of design. Where once we had Steve Jobs to tell us what design should be—we now have each other to look to as well. It’s not a substitute—it’s an addendum. For some of us—that’s a welcome evolution. For others—it’s like having unwanted guests crash your party. Which will it be for you?

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