Design is problem solving. We’ve all heard that rhetoric by now. And I’m sure we all agree. Great, end of article then? Everyone get on with your day. But after hearing this phrase over and over, I suppose I got to wondering.

When and why does something actually become a problem?

Problems aren’t problems (before they become problematic)

For something to have become a problem, chances are at some point it wasn’t one at all. Somewhere since however, things got complicated.

Just look at Language as an example of a design system that’s constantly solving new problems. Everyday words take on new meaning (just look at how many meanings in English there are for the word ‘Sound’). Nouns become Verbs (as Stephen Fry succinctly puts it, just look to Shakespeare, who made a doing-word out of a thing-word, every chance he got) and countless Neologisms are created along the way. Language spots, reacts and adapts to problems.

It’s the ultimate system design. Bound by complex rules, yet able to flex, jam, borrow, steal and re–purpose itself again and again to meet the needs of an ever changing environment.

And it is never finished.

Designing in the flat–circle

As things change, there will be problems. Of that there is no doubt. This is where the decline begins.

Nothing Gold Can Stay…

To paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk (by way of Edward Norton). ‘On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everything drops to zero’. Or to put it another way. Everything eventually turns to shit.

One of our challenges as designers is pushing against this tide of inevitability. To improve and keep on improving, something that can always be better.

Our job is never done, and nothing will ever be perfect. Get over it.

Instead we must strive to keep spotting and solving the problems (as and when they arise) and do our level best to keep pushing against that flow of the inevitable decline.

Mr Anderson…

Originally published on The Pastry Box Project