Friday, May 25, 2007

Planting the Right Tree

There was a apple farmer who planted apple trees in his fields. As time passed, he noticed that the developing trees kept producing oranges. He was perplexed, because he thought he had planted apple seeds. So he took some of the fruit that had grown and planted their seeds instead. He ended up with more oranges. And so he decided to become an orange-tree farmer.

This farmer switched his business model, not because of market conditions, a great need for more oranges, or because apples were bad. He changed it because he found it easier to adapt to an error made in the beginning. He didn't spend time contemplating what the real problem was. He just did what was expedient.

Today, designers seem to be following this same approach. Whether the issue is environmental responsibility, web design programming, or business marketing, today's designers rarely ask why. They seem more concerned with keeping up appearances in line with popular, yet vague, missions.

For instance, what does environmental responsibility mean? Does it mean specifying recycled paper, even if it can be discarded improperly by anyone, or if it requires massive amounts of energy to produce? Does it mean saying you care about the environment as a marketing message? Does it mean donating to organizations who say they care, but who also support things you have no clue to how it helps the environment?

In the process, have designers decided to become something other than designers today, simply because there is more and more agreement that we should? Maybe we need to stop asking questions about how many oranges we should plant, and start asking why we are planting oranges in the first place.

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