Design is a process, a process whereby a thinking person (or team of persons) uses a process of investigation, analysis, ideation, refinement, more analysis, more refinement and finally deployment toward the goal of solving a problem. It’s a methodology. It’s nothing terribly new. Engineers, scientists, physicians, and lots of other professionals use variations on this process to arrive at solutions to problems.
What I’m focusing on today is the idea of multi-disciplinary designers. Just as I suspect that an engineer with mechanical and electrical experience makes a better engineer, I think design becomes stronger as it spreads out to embrace a broader spectrum of design. Frank Gehry designs jewelry. Michael Graves, Alberto Alessi, and Philippe Starck have created small empires on diversified design applications. I posit that this increased breadth actually fortifies a designer’s weltanschauung. (Assuming they are actually doing it and not just signing their name to it — another blog.) I know many “specialized” designers who often make the finishing touch to a project through a detail that would normally be considered outside their realm. I have created many spaces that needed a particular object to add balance or composition or color, and I just could not locate it — so I designed it. It was not uncommon for Frank Lloyd Wright to design the windows, the furnishings, the stone work or any number of other details to complement a space simply because nothing else — already designed— would sympathize with the project in quite the same way. It’s not surprising then, that I believe a designer with this breadth is inherently more valuable to retain.
Take a look at the world of logo design, (a recent favorite topic of mine see: Is design becoming a commodity?) Some logos, perhaps for a blog, or limited scope web site, have a limited range; they will never be used for other applications. But, “never” is a big word. For a designer to stop at a solitary application, assuming it will never go beyond the online realm, I venture, is shortsighted. True logo design is a subset of corporate identity design, and corporate ID is really a subset of the larger idea of brand design. In this realm the logo had better work in the street as well as online, as well as in spaces and every other conceivable application. Because, you never know.
The same logic applies to an interior designer who is comfortable designing the lighting, the exhibit designer who is comfortable with interiors, with graphics with UI, etc., etc. It yields a more integrated solution.
For that you need a designer with broader vision and a better weltanschauung.