01/10 Good design is innovative. No, it's contextual.
innovative /ˈinəˌvādiv/ /ˈɪnəˌveɪdɪv/
Today we'll start with the history lesson: the origin of innovative, innovation, innovator. "Innovation” derives from the Latin word innovationem, innovatio (from root "in" + novus "new”; in-novo = renewing). According to Benoît Godin, this word, or more precisely, “novation" appeared for the first time in the 13th century as a term for renewing contracts, and it wasn't a term for creation, but for newness. Later on, around mid-15th/16th century, the word “novator" was used to describe someone with deviant political or religions beliefs undermining the traditional power structure. Godin mentions in one of his books, Innovation: A Conceptual History of an Anonymous Concept, how revolution and renewing are the two poles at the definition of meaning of innovation in the following centuries, both in dictionaries and lay discourses; and contrary to political thought, there was no theoretical work on innovation before the late 19th century. In this sense, renewing points to the past (return to the old, changing or renewing the old) and revolution points to the future (introducing something new, entirely new). Gabriele Tarde, a French sociologist, was one of the first to mention about innovation in his theories. He believed that social change required the stimulus of innovative thought. Innovation meant for him “disruption, creating new opportunities for emerging segments of the population while lessening the influence of established elites”. Its association with words such as “rare”, “influential”, and “genius” improved the word’s standing. It was a positive element in the society - and that’s the moment when innovation stated to be considered not only opposed to traditional ways of doing things, but also ingenious and creative.
The 19th century: Innovation vs. Invention
The 19th century matched also the time of the Industrial Revolution, creating a strong connection between innovation and invention, particularly technical inventions. If we look at the frequency of those two words, we see an interesting change and intersection of those two terms. Over time, the definition of innovation expanded, shifting its common understanding to "bringing to market a new technology." And let’s not forget that the ’Good design principles’ of Dieter Rams were written during those times, so the first term - “Good design is innovative” - might actually refer to that.The 19th century matched also the time of the Industrial Revolution, creating a strong connection between innovation and invention, particularly technical inventions. If we look at the frequency of those two words, we see an interesting change and intersection of those two terms. Over time, the definition of innovation expanded, shifting its common understanding to "bringing to market a new technology." And let’s not forget that the ’Good design principles’ of Dieter Rams were written during those times, so the first term - “Good design is innovative” - might actually refer to that.Google searches for the terms "innovation" and "invention" from 1800 to 2000
We know that semantics changed. Nowadays, innovation is often seen associated with words as entrepreneurship and creativity. Not only that, but innovation also became synonym to intentional change - a planned change based on strategy and investment. Innovation is considered also creativity in the sense of combination: to combine existing ideas or things in a new way (Barnett, 1953). And it is believed that the world keeps progressing if we have both inventions and innovations in the market, but looking back at all of those definitions, what’s the difference between those two?Let’s recap and take them one by one: 1. Invention refers to the creation of something that is entirely new and it is most of the times technical 2. On the other hand, innovation refers to combination or introduction of ideas and technology to an already existing product or service; or enhanced versions of a product or service that is already present in the marketFor instance, the first multi-touch screen technology was developed in 1982 to detect finger movement over a frosted glass panel with a camera. However, this technology was not popular on the marked until Steve Jobs used in for the iPhone. Hence, the multi-touch technology invention was applied t in an entirely different area, which made it an innovation.“The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.” - Dieter Rams
Good design is contextual - even personalised.What we can conclude is that technology is just a medium. It does give opportunities for innovative design, but it’s useless without the right context. Good design is contextual - like really contextual, and even personalised. Although we have the right resources to be innovative (& inventive), we still don't focus on the real need of the people who we design for.If we look back, some human needs are the same as decades ago (think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and some new adaptations) but in most cases, the context is the only one that is changing. So, can we be innovative if we don’t adapt? I don’t think so. Even the semantic history of this word can confirm us that we need be flexible.[TBD]