Design contains participants that run the gamut of pure production on one end and critical academia on the other. With no professional standards or barriers to entry the result is an infinite array of artifacts similarly functional-to-forgettable, beautiful-to-hyperpostconceptual committed by both master and apprentice under the vague, grey headercard of “Design”. Even as the ‘discipline of problem solving’, one problem it has yet to solve is finding itself a capable definition.
Design Practice is appropriately named, as designers each (ideally) grow ourselves throughout the course of our working lives doing, making and thinking. Even were the tools and techniques imminently knowable in whole, the context of their use and application continually expands across client and audience type and medium. Were these conditions finite, the matter of individual style and voice is yet another layer of opportunity, challenging the designer to grow continuously and once again. As such, one can never say that they have learned design, only that they are learning.
Design Maturity is a combination of knowledge and craft, yet the label (similarly) best describes a state of perpetual change rather than achievement. A marbled bi-polarity of creative ingenuity, context knowledge and deft implementation, the mature creative is judged on his last and next big win alone, with the hunt for relevancy-cum-self-improvement having long ago transformed vocation into lifestyle. Once in the flow of the profession, a designer’s waking hours are consumed by research, sketching, writing: making.
It may follow (or not), that a professional designer is, then, one that has Practiced sufficiently to Produce a critical output capable of financially sustaining the process of becoming Mature. Whether in the form of client services, teaching, product creation/publication, curation, a designer is validated in the commercial sphere on reputation and the associated accolades found in the successful navigation of increasingly relevant projects.
Success is ultimately not found at a particular zenith. A lifetime of practice, defined by participation, can hardly be culminated by a full-stop. Switching Design-as-verb to Design-as-noun implies an attainable gathering of infinite possibility. To succeed design would be just that—pass over from— to leave the practice, to cease participation. Instead, designers’ mature, carry over, but always, carry on.