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Designing Better Libraries by steven j bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.


Comment from Karin Dalziel
Posted: February 19, 2007 at 7:18 pm

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.

Comment from Meg Canada
Posted: February 20, 2007 at 7:13 pm

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.

Pingback from Real Library Innovation Or Just New Toasters
Posted: April 11, 2007 at 7:05 pm

[…] In the worlds of design and innovation there is currently a backlash movement in the works. The backlash can take the form of those who are legacy designers attacking all sorts of newcomers to the world of design, especially those in business schools and corporations where the adoption of design philosophies is being depicted as just one more business fad. Likewise, there is much being written about what counts as real innovation. Marc also pointed me to this article titled “Not Necessarily Toast.” It reports on a disagreement between two economists over whether there has been real innovation in the design and development of toasters, or whether the continuous changes in toaster technology are mostly mundane changes that largely result in the production of identical products. […]

Pingback from Designing Better Libraries » Maybe We ARE On To Something At DBL
Posted: April 24, 2007 at 11:45 am

[…] While I truly believe that understanding design thinking and developing a culture of design in a library organization can aid in the design of a better library experience for the user, I occasionally wonder if we are possibly buying into a passing fad. Are we just caught up in it or are we onto something here. Well, maybe its the latter and not the former. […]

Pingback from Designing Better Libraries » Designing Thinking Backlash Surfaces
Posted: March 3, 2008 at 12:24 am

[…] and Lee isn’t the first person to suggest that design thinking has all the makings of another business fad. On further reading one sees that Lee isn’t trashing design thinking. Rather she’s […]

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