Design is often confused with making something look good. While design may often improve aesthetics, it’s more useful to think of design as a framework for creating massive change.
As Bruce Mau states in his book Mau MC24, Bruce Mau’s 24 principles for designing Massive Change in your life and work, “[Design] combines analysis, envisioning, decision-making, prototyping, and continuous learning.”
What’s useful about that description is the clear framework it gives us for enabling change and its ability to be applied across disciplines.
When Bill Pittman applied the framework to studio recording, he invented what we know today as reverb. The technique that helped The Harmonicats 1947 song “Peg O’ My Heart” climb to the top of the charts.
After analyzing the acoustics of an echoey bathroom, Bill envisioned a new type of sound and decided to create a quick prototype. Through a speaker, Bill played “Peg O’ My Heart”. The song would then reverberate off the bathroom walls and into a microphone. Creating what we know today as artificial reverb.
As Seth Godin points out, by “daring to create artificial reverb, he opened the door for so much of what we hear coming from music studios today.” In other words, what we hear coming out of music studios today is a direct result of continuous learning.
The thing is, when Bill set out to create artificial reverb, his goal wasn’t to change everything, it was to change what he could where he could. And in doing so, he ended up changing a lot.
So, while the changes we set out to make may seem small, they all have the chance to ripple outwards and create massive change. To steal another line from Seth Godin “One record, one interaction, one person… it might be enough.”
By seeing design as more than a tool for making things look good, and instead choosing to see it as a combination of analysis, envisioning, decision-making, prototyping, and continuous learning, we give ourselves a framework for creating massive change. Even if that massive change only starts out as a small ripple.