Is DBL Just A Fad

Just as we were preparing to debut DBL I came across an article that suggests that we were too late arriving on the scene with our emphasis on design. “Beware the Backlash” appeared in Core77, and its main theme is that a backlash against design is on the rise. It seems that real designers are growing tired of the rest of the world using design themes to generate “useless stuff.” The author states that “design has lost its magic now that everyone has an opinion on it. It was clearly much more special when only a select group of designers swooned over the latest Apple product.” Is the world of design experiencing a bandwagon effect? Is it now just faddish to talk about the importance of design? And most importantly, is DBL just being superficial when we talk of the influence design can have on librarianship?

I prefer to think that design has not been “striped of much of its meaning” as the author contends it has. It is possible that design is being overused in the media which adds to the overexposure. So I’m not surprised that those who’ve been long-term design thinkers and practitioners might react by suggesting that those new to the concept are misusing it and are simply jumping on the bandwagon. Given that design principles and design thinking have seen little exploration in the world of librarianship, I think there is much room for the growth of this concept and the related practices in our profession. DBL is about more than just design hype. To my way of thinking, given that many of our libraries need to discover what’s broken and how design can help make things work better, there is much that we can explore and learn in the worlds of design thinking, instructional design, innovation and creativity.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

5 thoughts on “Is DBL Just A Fad”

  1. There’s a definite shift in the way people think about design, but I’m not convinced that most people are doing so superficially or jumping on a bandwagon. In school, I went through a 10 credit, grueling course on Visual Literacy (granted, I was a fine Art major). I think visual literacy, like information literacy, is on the rise. Just as cheap printing technologies lead to a rise in literacy, cheap design technology leads to a rise in visual literacy.

    It’s not a bad thing- just because more people can come up with a decent design, doesn’t mean just anyone can excel at design. We still need professional designers, but the rest of us need to hone our design abilities as well.

  2. All fields evolve. Is photography no longer compelling now that digital photos can be easily produced and shared? We are all seeing some amateurization in design, art, photography, even cataloging and librarianship (see LibraryThing). As I learned in the OCLC – Who’s watching your space- program at ALA Midwinter in Seattle, we all need to move to higher ground. Even if learning about or appreciating design is a fad, it doesn’t mean we should not participate in this discussion or worse, ignore it.

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