As a classically trained designer, I was instilled with the best practices of the Bauhaus in how to make things functional and beautiful and that in fact function can be a form of beauty. The integration of form and function presaged the digital era and is certainly the driving force in web design, user interface and information architecture.
As we are reaching a point where good product design and graphic design are more ubiquitous, there is a new movement afoot promoting the idea of "Design Thinking," I'm not sure if the term was coined by Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, a prominent industrial design firm, but it certainly figures large in his new book, "Change By Design," which was favorably reviewed by the NY Times this past Sunday.
The book is just out so I've not read it, but did listen to the fascinating video at http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_urges_designers_to_think_big.html. Brown's contention is that the form follows function definition of design, has resulted in a narrow definition of design as about aesthetics, images and fashion. Brown contends that as we are in a time of change on par with the industrial revolution, "Design Thinking" is synonymous with innovation and can be applied to the big problems of our day, such as healthcare, transportation, clean water, education and so forth. He touches upon these applications of "Design Thinking" at a high level. I will read the book to gain better insight and plan to share it in future posts, in which I'll address the expanding role and relevance of design in the changing world.