A Short, Grandiose Theory of Design

Editor’s Note: One of the last pieces he wrote before he died, Jay summed up his philosophy towards design and innovation. This article gives a wonderful impression of his wit and attitude and his forward-thinking approach to a discipline that has been widely adopted in the years since.

For years, most design problems could be solved by using a combination of design training, experience, and applied intuition. But as the world and its design problems have become more complex, traditional approaches have become less effective.

The notion of design theory may seem woolly-headed and irrelevant, but it has a place: theory can provide a structure for understanding problems and help generate methods for solving them. After many years of being confined to a few oddball schools, design methods are starting to find widespread practical application. Indeed, there are today many classes of design projects (big positioning studies, complex identity programs, massive electronic publishing systems, and systems of products produced in robotic factories among them) that would be irresponsible to attempt without using analytical methods.

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