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Soren Petersen Headshot

Design's Secret Agents -- The 007s of Tomorrow

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For over half-a-century now, the James Bond character has been a role model for men of all ages, representing, for many, their dreams, aspirations and hopes. He is an interesting hybrid of the underdog and the lone wolf who, despite all odds, takes on impossible assignments and goes through fire and ice to save the world.

At the end of the day, James Bond gains no fame, glory or money. He remains the anonymous Agent 007, unfettered and always prepared to save the world once again. This sounds a lot like the life of a designer, but do designers see themselves deep down as similar to Agent 007?

There are definitely superstar designers who are famous in the design community and even some who achieve celebrity status among art and architecture buffs. However, most of the designers who touch our lives daily with their products do so without anyone really noticing them. If one were to ask the public sector who is the world's most powerful designer, (Raymond Lowe) or the most influential automotive designer, (Giorgio Giugiaro), or, the most dominant architect (Mies van der Rohe) and even the world's most famous artist (Pablo Picasso), perhaps Picasso alone might show up on their radar. Designers can feel somewhat anonymous, like Agent 007, and yet ultimately still be responsible for saving the world.

Of course, designers do not accomplish their many achievements in a vacuum and much like Agent 007, they have their manager, M, to set their direction and the supportive scientist/engineer, Q, to supply them with innovative gizmos of all kinds. Designers receive a "for your eyes only" brief and follow flexible processes (find the villain, engage with him, confront and execute). Finally, they have design research and thinking to assist them in delivering just in the nick of time to meet their deadlines. However, no matter who else participates, it is the designer's synthesis of information into comprehensive concepts that ultimately changes the world.

Our world is now in short supply of heroes or even role models. Recently, many of our more visible public figures have all let us down and it is hard to imagine today's young people looking up to this gang of "the usual suspects." It has been said that "Power corrupts -- and absolute power corrupts absolutely" so there may be no reason to imagine star designers being immune to the effect of self-aggrandizement.

However, anonymous designers could still act, as a symbol for inspiration, much like James Bond and instead of merely being viewed as a nerdy "sketch monkey" in a cubicle, be recognized instead as a proactive entrepreneurial agent. One who embraces business strategies, experiments with business models, and formulates design briefs. This secret agent assists and takes on risky missions to identify needs and explores innovative opportunities to perhaps provide water, power and communication to billions of people. This agent travels the globe to ensure the perfect implementation of the mission and, who knows, may even capture the heart of a beautiful girl in the end.