It seems to me that in the past 20 years, design creativity has become increasingly driven and limited by design tools, rather than the brains using them. This leads to a high level of design sameness and general lack of creativity. Many (web) design curricula are now tool-based, and I notice many designers skipping or drastically shortening the thinking process behind a design, preferring to dive into Photoshop or (insert tool here).
If what Paul Rand once said is true, that design is a method of putting form and content together, then one of the fundamental tasks of a designer is to understand this content, and funnel the abstract wishes and values of the client into a usable design language (which can then be implemented using tools). Only then will the design have more meaning and creative depth.
I’ve advocated the large-to-small, abstract-to-specific process for years, and we utilize it at Cinnamon whenever possible. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to write a manifesto for ChangeThis describing this philosophy.
If you’re interested in a design process which encourages effective creative thinking (and therefore yields effective design), please check it out and give it away. And feel free to post your thoughts.
While you’re at it, go ahead and check out Hugh MacLeod’s famous and excellent manifesto on being more creative.