Not as faddish as people think…

Sure, design “coolness” tends to evolve in waves in pop culture and media portrayals (Time, Businessweek, Fast Company, etc.), but most people don’t realize the following faddish and over-buzzwordy terms are actually quite old, several centuries even!

1. Innovation: Rhetoric as originally described by Aristotle, and later evolved through Cicero, was fundamentally about the art of innovation using the material of words and language to persuasively communicate among fellow people, creating powerful arguments in an inventive manner

2. Experience: Long before Nasdaq companies co-opted this buzzword into their marketing and branding, a pragmatist philosopher named John Dewey in early-20th century America rigorously studied (and hypothesized upon) the connections between education and human experience, and how to create an optimal experience of form/material/emotion towards improving someone’s daily life, which he termed “an experience” (as opposed to an “inchoate experience” full of distraction, disconnection, and thus dissatisfying. Plus, his contemporaries were Moholy-Nagy (Bauhaus) and Paul Rand (Yale), both of whom read and were inspired by Dewey’s seminal text, “Art as Experience” (this is required reading at CMU and IIT). Dewey was basically an experience design strategist in 1935!

3. Design: It seems the dot-com craze propelled design into the public consciousness (along with Apple, Ikea, Target, Nike) and thus it has taken on so many varieties of flavors, losing its meaning, blurring distinctions. But in the 1950’s Nobel Laureate (economics) and cognitive psychology expert Herbert Simon (formerly of CMU) advocated a very broad definition of design in his major text, “The Sciences of the Artificial”, in which he characterized a designer as “anyone who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into a preferred situation”. For him, the study of humanity is the study of design (decision-making, problem-solving, etc.) Unfortunately his ideas got jumbled up by HCI and AI people…resulting in CHI :-) (ok, i’m simplifying a little bit…)

So while innovation, experience, and design may seem like “the new black”, they’re actually familiar and respected concepts.