The cult of ideas is more interesting than the cult of personality (or the cult of “like”).

A lively conversation in the studio about design credits on our site has led to reflection about what motivates us in this work called design thinking.

The advent of social networks has amplified the cult of personality to arena rock proportions. (I am aware this is not news.) Unfortunately for design – a serious business of ideas – it has also deflected emphasis away from the idea in favor of popularity and search results. This shift is having the same detrimental effect on design thinking that rote memorization is having on public education. We are forsaking the long-term impact of creative thinking for short-term results.

Back in the days when we used to submit work to design shows, we declined whenever possible to assign individual credit for creative roles on a project. The creative result of a project is always collective, even if the project was touched by only half the personnel in the studio. It is impossible to measure the impact of a passing comment, the tiniest refinement performed by a production artist, or even the craft of a press operator, coder or photo assistant.

If we as a studio are the progenitors and mid-wives of sublime experiences – we can never lose sight that we all serve the idea above everything else – including our own reputations. No one person can provide this safe passage into the world. In order for a fragile idea to survive the endless obstacles put up by every force of mediocrity, it remains that each individual who touches a project must feel responsibility for the whole rather than their assigned role.

Serving the idea first is our best hope for design thinking to have meaningful, lasting impact on the world we serve.

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