Design & Change

The intersection of design and change

We have a lot of fancy definitions for design– rendering of intent, thoughtfulness, making a detailed drawing, etc. and those definitions are great.

But if I’m really being honest, drawing boxes and arrows, arranging objects, etc— if what I make stops there, while I made a design, what I’ve also done is just a thought exercise.


If what you’re making is becoming real, it’s important to understand that not only have you designed something, you are changing something. Given that every person has some type of feeling around a change, it’s well worth a designer’s time to understand change better.

First — I want to address the common adage of “People don’t like change.” While the adage exists for legitimate reasons–we’ve bristled inside when we’ve experienced change (remember 2020?), but it’s not always true.

My office building changed vending machines about a year ago. The old vending machine only took cash and coins, and had a limited set of items, mostly candy. The replacement took cash, coins, credit card, and had a greater variety of items. We literally had a party when the vending machine changed. So clearly, it’s not that people don’t like change.

But this could have gone a different direction. Imagine with me a a different replacement vending machine that took only bitcoin and only offered candy.

What could you guess was the result of the change in the second scenario. Why might that be?

It came down to a match between readiness for change and a solution that matched user needs. The old vending machine was a pain to use, it didn’t have what we wanted, and we were ready for something new. The office manager did a survey and got an understanding of what our needs and desires were.

If you only wait for user readiness, you release something that won’t fit needs. If you don’t wait for or create user readiness, you release something they don’t even want.

Now — I’ve used a fairly innocuous example so imagine how much more important keeping change in mind is when we are designing even more complex things.

Often, designers can introduce change to our users who don’t know or want change. We introduce something because it’s cool, or because we think they want it, and that, simply is not good design.

There’s much more to change management — I encourage you to explore change management further because the better you are at change, the better designer you will be.

It turns out I have a habit of writing about the intersection of different disciplines, check out my other articles on:

Design & Copywriting

Design & Project Management

Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at Intervarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her cat, crocheting, working out, and thinking too much about everything.

Digital Designer