Design Manifesto

Ten principles that guide my daily design practice.

Portrait of Pablo Zarate Pablo Zarate Buenos Aires Followers: 15

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This Manifesto is the conclusion of almost twenty years of work and hustle. It is the set of rules I use in the daily practice that allows me to decide on which projects I’ll get involved in. They are not, by any means, definitive. I expect to continue my journey and adopt newer lessons that, hopefully, will help me to evolve these principles.

If you’re just starting, I hope you find this Manifesto helpful. I decided to publish it so you can adopt these principles, or use them as a template to write your own.

I believe that a good practitioner is someone who embraces the idea of following a code of ethics, and expressing it into a Manifesto is a great way to start.

1. Design is an intellectual practice, and that’s why it matters

The Genesis of any design work comes from the spark of an idea. As designers, we have the talent to visualize in our minds the whole process that is needed to materialize anything.

Dieter Rams said that “Good design is planned down to the last detail” and “the details are not the details, they make the product” (Charles Eames). Admitting how real and crucial the intellectual side is, is the first step for good professional practice.

2. Every design has to be human, honest and smart

This is the only way to achieve greatness in this industry. Before being designers, we are all humans; therefore, we should design things that speak a common language, a human language. Our users deserve honest designers who can create products/services that can help them fulfill any specific task without making them feel inferior or wasting their time.

3. The role of design is to care about people, messages and ideas

As human beings, we all have the responsibility to care about each other, but, as designers, we also have to care about the legacy of the times that we’re living. We are responsible for the things that we put into the world. We should care, and we should be careful when choosing which message or ideal we’ll stand by. A good message can lead us into great concepts or ideas that are powerful enough to reshape societies. A designer should take this responsibility seriously in order to avoid the bad practice.

4. A good designer must fulfill their creative hunger and aim high. No matter the cost

To define creativity in an indisputable way is almost impossible, however, when we know that something is not good enough, not creative enough, we feel it in our bones. We have to trust our gut, and we have to challenge ourselves to avoid the recipes we know can get the job done and try to push our boundaries. The goal is to get better by working, and if we keep it human, honest, and smart, the world will thank us.

5. A good designer knows their value and how to sell it

It is well known that everything we do tends to be interpreted as easy to achieve, but that does not mean that our work should be devaluated. Good design is good business. We all need to learn to deal with customers and charge them a fair amount which is also sustainable for us.

6. A good designer does not design useless or banal things

We live in a society that is designed to consume (oneself) frantically and without control. Accepting this as normal is an error that generates imbalances everywhere. To amend this, we must take the first step by learning to say "NO" when a project comes to us whose main goal is not essential for society. We don't need more. We need less but better.

7. A good designer knows that the audience is not dumb

The most common mistake we can make as a designer is to assume that people are stupid or they don't want to be challenged. If you're going to do work that has a real impact, the first step is to have sincere respect for the users.

8. Designers must help, respect and acknowledge other designers

We are all here thanks to the effort of colleagues that helped to shape our concepts and tools. We have to acknowledge the legacy of those who came before us. Even those who harmed the profession deserve respect for teaching us the difference between right and wrong.

9. Hard work is critical. Talent is not enough

The best designers know that talent is not something to be trusted. It all comes down to the old saying: 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. We have to face up, do our best, apologize for the mistakes, and continue.

10. Good design is ethically correct and does not cause harm

Our profession does not have a Hippocratic Oath. I believe that's the cause of many of the “design crimes” that humanity has witnessed. If our purpose is to help people to achieve greatness without causing them any harm, then we have to enhance our practice by caring about professional ethics and the wellbeing of everything we do.

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Portrait of Pablo Zarate Pablo Zarate Buenos Aires Followers: 15

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