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Translation by design Von Jeanette Mooney


By definition, translation is an act of change: the conversion of a thing into another thing. The thing starts and ends most often as words, but it could be another medium. Ideas, spaces and even places can be translated.

By definition, design is an act of creation: the planning and organisation of a thing destined to be executed (or made). The thing starts as an idea and goes on to take on a Gestalt—you get results.

Both ways of working are commutable. What differentiates translation from design has less to do with the toolkit used in either way of working—they are in fact similar—and more to do with how both ways of working are individually perceived to be different. Designers don’t consider themselves translators, and translators don’t consider themselves designers. Maybe they should. Not least as an opportunity to see things differently; at best as an opportunity to change the toolkit to then change the way of working to then lead to a change in results.

The way we translate the world into words matters as much as how we design the results we wish to share with the world. Both ways of working—conversion and creation—have their place individually. Together, though, they do more, by taking the way of working beyond what it was before.

Jeanette started out as an interpreter and today works as a translator of words and ideas, designing ways to enable others to go beyond what they know and do. She likes to call this: purpose by design. This post was provoked by Lutz Engelke’s Creative Mornings Berlin talk on “Beyond”.

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