Jon Kolko on Being a Designer Today

My colleague Jon Kolko in frog’s Austin office has a nice interview over at Yanko design with lots of great thoughts in it.

I think students need to focus on the intellectual aspects of design, rather than becoming enamored with the more obvious, traditional, and seemingly glamorous parts of design. Many students see Karim Rashid, or other flamboyant form givers, talk about design, and fail to realize that these are purposefully produced public approaches to a profession, much like Paris Hilton is to media. Design isn’t about that, at least not the design that’s going to land you a job and help you pay your mortgage. It’s about something thoughtful, and methodical, and useful, and beautiful, all at once. The design I talk about, and the design work we do at frog, is so far away from the “making beautiful objects” of yesterday that it’s almost a different job entirely.

I long for a day where designers, without long and convoluted explanations and examples and spec work and hand waving, are paid for the output of their mind, rather than their hands. We produce artifacts to visualize, and to illustrate, and to show what we mean; these are ancillary to the things we think. Doctors, lawyers, even smarmy politicians aren’t compensated directly based on their output – only on their intellect. Ultimately, we need to realize – and we need to communicate to our clients and to the general public – that design is a culturally embedded phenomenon about changing behavior.

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