Designers are often expected to be innovative. But why? There are many good reasons why designers actually should focus on innovation. But often times it’s just a myth.

Technical innovation

When there’s new technology it also gives people new perspectives. Some just make a particular thing, some bring completely new possibilities. Often, it is not yet established what to do with these technologies. Therefore, a designer can play one part to find out these possibilities and also find a way to establish them in our lives.

The myth

But there’s also a myth about the designer. It’s not only seen by people from outside the industry but also by designers themselves. There are many things which are simply not true and feel like magic and let look the profession of a designer as another kind of magician.

Designers self-perception

Even designers sometimes overrate their influence in the world. They absolutely can have a big impact on many peoples lives. And for every problem, there must be a possible solution. We alone are the chosen ones that rescue the world from all problems. And that’s simply not true. First, it is impossible to reform everything to a better way without destroying something else at the same moment. Designing is making compromises. And secondly, it’s not a one-man show. It’s tough teamwork and we have to admit that we are not experts in everything. And that’s actually good. We have to find our position in the project. I don’t want to kick off a religious designer battle, so I’ll let open which position this is…

The magician perception

Very similar but from another point of view – the view of nondesigners – is the perception of designers as magicians. Change the world in a small garage, maybe even in Los Altos, with the greatest invention of mankind. With nothing more than two genius brain and a big, big black box. No, this obviously is not true. But it sometimes is the notion of a designer for some people. This notion often is originated from selling an invention, making people believe it will change their lives. And especially nowadays it sells quite good.

To destroy this myth we have to see where innovation is coming from. Our teacher Joëlle told us that most innovation comes from public research and this is originally founded by the military. At least in the technologies that really changed our lives from America.

Fake innovation

The notion of designers as magicians leads many companies to produce fake innovation. Joëlle presented us the Juicero. To describe it as banal as it is, it’s a $400 machine that presses fruit juice out of a plastic juice bag even slower that you could do it by hand. It can’t serve you any actual service, it’s expensive, it’s so huge that it will block your kitchen and for no real reason it’s only working when it’s connected to your WiFi network. I’m not capable of seeing any innovation. But at least some investors were capable enough and invested $120 million in funding. Great.