“Designers are, one way or another, futurists” — Richard Seymour
Problem solving is to design, only as much as wheels are to cars. It is a given. The strategic value of design lies in a different dimension. While the context of problem sets and innovation are typically “industrial”, design creativity has the natural capacity to go “post-industrial”.
In the post-industrial world, the origin of creation — research and design — will be more important than the origin of manufacturing or assembly. Take Apple. Every Apple product has this declaration, “Designed by Apple in California”. Secondarily would be the ubiquitous words of the industrial world, “Made in China” or “Assembled in Singapore”.
It should not require a rocket scientist to figure out that Apple can choose to manufacture or assemble its products in any country that “makes sense”, but they will always be of California and Silicon Valley origin. Consumers already accept that global brands such as Nokia, Nike, Gap, Canon, HP, and even Toyota, outsource their production away from the home country of the company. The processes of global outsourcing are now so effective that it practically does not matter to most people where their things are made. So, in the industrial economy, place increasingly does not matter. But, does place matter in the post-industrial economy?
The environment to foster post-industrial creativity is very much harder to create and maintain than that for industrial manufacturing. Creative thinking, say, for design, is not just a production process (with all its connotations of optimisation, systems controls, parallel and distributed processing, analytics, etc.), but also needs vibrant social and cognitive milieus that are talent-centric. The recent financial recession has helped to expose the myth of “rational market-driven” (read: objective) decision-making. The key drivers of the post-industrial economy are no longer technology, finance, policies, or education. They come in warm bodies: talent. They may pursue their ideas in solo, but they cannot achieve creative status for themselves or their creations, without interacting with the wider local and international community of interested experts. Creativity is not defined by individuals.
* Forward in the Icsid World Design Congress 2009 handbook. Singapore: DesignSingapore Council.