This may be, in part, what attracted me to the field of design. Design is a beautiful challenge of discovering what’s often already there or, as Michelangelo put it, what’s already living within the marble. This discovery doesn’t start with an answer. It starts with a question.
Questions are a part of life. They form our conversations, and they inform our work. They’re foundational to who we are as humans. Show me a human, and I will show you an infinite ocean of curiosity. But my favorite thing about a question is that it provides room for hope.
Hope is a word that casually creeps its way into my daily conversations. I hope it won’t rain today, just as I hope the coffee pot isn’t empty when my mug needs a warmer. It seems we’ve given a new, social meaning to hope: it’s an expectation that can have even the most mundane requests. My favorite definition of the word, however, is often listed as a secondary definition in the dictionary.
This definition is powerful in describing a feeling of trust and a confident expectation. It would be an understatement to say that this second definition has completely changed my life. It has also revolutionized the way I think about design. And so began my endeavor to capture the work of hope in my own life—an exercise in part for my own memory but also for those seeking to wrestle through these questions. In a spirit of discovery, I'll begin by asking a bigger question:
What if we believe a better way is possible?
Really think about it for a second. Allow any cynicism to subside. Let your mind slow down. Think about the tremendous amount of hope that this question evokes.
How would your answer to this larger-than-life question impact the work that you do? More importantly, how would your answer impact the faces beyond the work that you do?
We talk a lot about compassion in design communities. We use questions as tools to evoke a common sense of empathy amongst our teams. We strive to reach the faces beyond the work that we do. And I think that we can also use questions to bring a sense of hope into our work itself. A confident expectation of what design can really do.
Compassionate design teaches us that there are real people in real places behind every sketch that could cover a whiteboard. But hopeful design provides us with an entirely new vantage point.
Design is so much more than a means to create pretty things. It challenges the status quo and creates change. Change that can solve some of the world’s toughest problems by advocating for the humans impacted by them. Design is not passive. Design is not self-serving. Design is hopeful. And, most importantly: Design does.
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