Visiting the Science Museum in London recently I had the pleasure of seeing ‘The Bubble Show’, one of their regular science shows. While this might not sound like a notable highlight for most people considering the museum’s also home to the Apollo 11 Lunar lander, I had a lightbulb moment while watching.
Greeting the room full of excited big and small people, our presenter dramatically began: “Good morning everyone and welcome to the Science Museum, my name is David and I, am an Explainer!!”
How fantastic is that job title? Stick that on your CV and be proud you've achieved at least one cool job title David. Mulling over my envy, I realised that actually, being an Explainer is not a million miles away from what designers do. So, I’m calling it, designers are Explainers too and here’s 6 reasons why:
1. Who, What, Where, When, How, Why
‘explain’ verb - 'to make something clear or easy to understand by describing or giving information about it.' That nicely sums up the role of the designer too: listening, questioning and understanding the who, what, where, when, how and why's of each business they work with. Before distilling that knowledge into a recognisable, visual message for audiences.
2. Making Choices
Once we understand the project at hand, designers can make choices about how that message is presented: be bold and obvious, with clean backgrounds and impactful single colour text? Or give the viewer a more complex visual puzzle, to capture their attention for longer? It’s our job to make the right choices.
3. Giving Good Reasons
Not always a favourite part of the process - speaking or writing clearly about ideas and design choices: why we are using one font over another, the meaning behind colour selection, what impact a certain illustration style will evoke, choosing the right papers… some explanation is often necessary to get clients onboard with ideas, they are the ones paying the bill after all!
4. Always Learning
Part of the enjoyment of being a designer, is learning about each business and it’s unique problems and working with different industries too: learning the terminology, oddities and customs, contrasting it with the industry we work in. Explainers have to fully understand something before they can clearly inform others and while I may not know a lot about hydrogen’s affect on a giant vat of bubble mixture, I will happily watch and learn from someone who really does.
5. Finding the New
I’m sure the presenters at the Science Museum and anyone who’s job it is to explain to others, are regularly updating their knowledge, whether that’s via reading, researching, experimenting or attending talks. Designers consistently seek knowledge too - finding apps to help streamline client workflow, the next big social media platform, following developments in tech or understanding the implications of artificial intelligence. Great designers love to learn.
6. The Performance
Putting work out there publicly, whether it’s on paper, desktop, products or giant cinema screens is a take-a-deep-breath-moment. For designers hoping their work and design choices will have the impact desired: explain the idea clearly, imploring audiences to talk, share and interact with the work.
The cool job title envy was a fleeting moment once I had realised the parity between a designers role and that of an Explainer, minus of course: the hydrogen, helium, novelty shaped bubble wands and protective googles! Once things for sure though - designers, we have a lot of explaining to do.
- Charlee Sully, Creative Director of The Usual Studio
I work across design, ideas, strategy and content, writing about design, innovation and entrepreneurship. I love sushi, tea's my cuppa of choice and BBC6 music's always on. Unlike a former housemate - I do find comedy funny.