At the outset, a database with thousands of antiques doesn’t sound that interesting. It’s hard to imagine the design challenges that might arise. Especially when you compare a database filled with antiques to, say, Google Glass or some other Silicon Valley invention.
And that’s the challenge we heard from hiring managers from organizations like Sears, JP Morgan Chase, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when we talked about attracting graduate designers. They felt their projects just weren’t sexy enough to attract the best talent. They felt new design talent wouldn’t see any interesting challenges to the work.
Yet, when you talk to the people who work for those organizations on those unsexy projects, and get them really talking, they get visibly excited. The problems they start to share are wonderfully interesting with nifty constraints and subtleties. Truly sexy challenges hide within these seemingly unsexy projects.
While it could be a marketing problem on the part of the hiring managers, I think the core of the problem lies at the heart of the design schools. Seeing beyond the surface, to uncover the sexy design challenges underneath, is a skill. A skill that schools should be teaching.
How do you teach it? One way is to ensure the students get to that underneath part when they work on their projects. These projects have to be assigned, because, well, who would choose something that doesn’t seem sexy on its own.
Once assigned, the faculty needs to show the students how to see the sexy design challenges and appreciate them. This process has to be repeated, until the students start to see the sexy on their own.
Seeing is a core part of design. Seeing the subtlety and nuance that makes a design project sexy is a wonderful skill to learn, because it invokes an excitement and engagement in the designer that takes the design to a new level.
That excitement and engagement is valuable to the hiring companies and it’s an attractive quality to see in students. Everybody wins when you can uncover the sexy that lurks within.