Design Is A Wholistic Practice Best Applied By Systems Thinkers

Eric Karjaluoto, Creative Director at smashLAB in Vancouver, BC is asking his fellow design professionals to “Put Down Your Crayons.” He was provoked to ask this when his search for talent kept turning up the wrong kind of designer.

What most candidates fixate on isn’t necessarily what I can best put to use. Yes, I need someone who maintains a strong command of visual language, typography, composition, form, and all that good stuff. That, however, is only really one—rather small—part of what we do at smashLAB.

Want to know what I can really use? Thinkers. Yes, beyond anything visual, I need people who can look at a communication problem, and propose a way to solve it. The tricky part, is that what it takes to get from here to there doesn’t really look like design to most designers. I’m talking about research, analysis, organization of findings, non-linear reasoning, and the ability to write these things down. Further, I need people who can probe intelligently to achieve insight, and later articulate their thinking to those who don’t have much interest in design.

Sadly, a great many designers don’t feel like doing this kind of work. Instead, they want to be artists who only explore visually. I don’t blame them, but I do believe this bias leaves them missing out.

Concept is king. Execution is the King’s court. In design as in advertising, and pretty much any other business you can think of.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Ekinyalcin says:

    I definitely agree that thinkers are the problem solvers that every ad campaign needs! can we say that in todays ad world we call them strategic planners??