What Is A 21st Century Designer?

“A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective econonomist, and evolutionary strategist.” -Buckminster Fuller

The traditional 20th century paradigm of the visual designer was of a skilled craftsperson who made media artifacts that served the needs of a client.  In the quote above Buckminster Fuller envisioned a different paradigm, and he was far ahead of his time for this paradigm shift didn’t really begin to occurr until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Changes in the ways in which media are made and distributed, upsetting the old power structures of mass media, has pushed designers to become participants in and creators of social platforms.  Instead of the client pushing the designer, there is an opportunity now for the designer to push the client.  Designers are collaborators, customizers, and creators not just of media artifacts but of new conceptual frameworks.  It’s no accident that there are more designers who are CEO’s of companies than ever before in history.  Design not only helps create the product, design IS the product.

We are also entering an era of cloud-based design.  And this doesn’t just mean uploading files to a cloud server, it’s a conceptual framework in which designers think and work.  Instagram, Pinterest, and Thingaverse are just as important tools for design as Photoshop and Illustrator.

A designer makes logos and layouts, videos, music, apps print books and ebooks, packaging and products, social networks and services.  A broader range of disciplines, sideways thinking, and the agility to constantly relearn and reinvent are vital.