Being a designer today – Prof Helen Storey MBE

Judges Interviews

In the last 10 years I have realised that to be a designer requires knowing when to design and when not to – our role has changed dramatically, or at least what the world is asking of us, has.

The economic model that asks us to create and produce more stuff is now threatened by the shifts we need to make.

Once upon a time, it was almost exclusively our job to bring aesthetic and function together; to conjure desire and the ‘‘must have, or you are nothing” moments in our customers and clients. This function is threatened by the shifts we need to make. The skills we now require, use sensitivity and awareness in renewed ways – from the ability to identify what is worth solving, to helping us reevaluate what we value, influencing the right people into the room, those who may well deliver the it better than you.

Meanwhile, human imagination is joining forces with its previous competitors; artists and scientists now recognise their ability to deliver the required innovation more effectively together.

There is only one question worth trying to answer now: How are we, as a species, going to flourish with equality and equanimity on this earth?

We cannot design a simple solution for that. What is required is for each of us to turn our diverse set of gifts to contribute towards this goal. Why climb any more ladders, if the walls they lean against are threatening to fall down?

There is strong competition for our attention nowadays, but three components lie at the root of our potential to stay a part of nature’s intention.

Firstly, how might we act with those we consider our enemies? (In business, we’d call it ‘the competition’) Secondly, how can we embrace our future with optimism, intelligence and grace? And finally, how can we have as much faith in the quantifiable, as the immeasurable, the known and the unknown?

Our answers won’t come from logic alone; indeed our answers may come from the bravery and determination with which we live our questions first.

For sure, we need to trust and give increased space to our intuition and value human energy more greatly. Above all, with the courage we need to enact now, we should be prepared to be considered, one day, a genius and the next, an utter fool.

This is however, the most exciting time to be a human being – our potential has never been more loudly asked into realisation. If we are one of those with the privilege of birth on a part of the planet that we need not flee from; where our education is possible and where we aren’t looking for a place to sleep tonight, then, despite some of the challenges and questions I mention here, this is the very best time to be a designer.