Designers will never become inventors

It was interesting to read the article on how it’s time designers latched on to the public popularity shown towards inventors (DW 2 August). However, I disagree with it.

Invention is about solving problems with an idea, nothing else. To make an invention succeed it is usually down to the inventors’ commitment and resourcefulness to drive the idea to an alien and sometimes criminal industry. Inventing is not a profession, and fantastic ideas come from anyone of varying skills and ability.

Product design is more about solving the needs of the client than the consumer. The typical board of directors is more interested in internal politics, economics and the continuation of existing products to solve problems. Because so little creation comes from existing manufacturers product design evolves products. Designers do not call themselves inventors because they are not inventors, not because inventors are seen as “slightly bonkers”.

Supporting the board is the role of the product designer (and all other designers) and to succeed in the profession it is critical to give them what they want, which is quite often not what is needed by users. Unfortunately, product designers take the blame for blinkered clients. Great product designs either come from a great client brief or individual designers operating independently.

As a product designer I have been struggling to get my invention exploited commercially for two years. I am now very close to having a new company formed to manufacture and distribute my invention and design to a massive world market. My design skills allowed me to communicate my idea adequately and build it into a viable product to educate a boardroom to the potential. But they were so preoccupied with their own problems that I had to go it alone anyway.

I used to see product design as the catalyst to realising inventive ideas and as a benefit to everyone. Many years down the line, I know that this privilege is with those people who control the money, and if I want to benefit the world and produce great products, maybe I should be an accountant.

Like Michael Evamy, I believe design needs to be more inventive, but I would extend that need to all professions, from accountants to zoologists.

If we want better product design from British companies we need the changes to take place in the boardroom. The only link between inventors and designers the board – the common enemy.

Like other inventor/designers before me, I hope my new company will exploit invention, to create products, not to evolve them to extinction. Being a designer has only enabled me to develop my ideas far more cheaply than if I had to pay someone, increasing my resources to aid my success.

Matthew Whittaker

Double U Develops

Redditch

Birmingham B97 5NE

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