People who are into photography understand that a single camera "lens" is actually made up many lenses.
This last week I was in a meeting where we talked about "design competency." That strikes me as a strange topic... but, that's really not what this post is about. One of the things we discussed was how we evolve as designers. Many designers who are just setting their feet to the design path see design in very specific contexts — i.e. this thing that I am doing or experiencing right here/now is design. Designers who have been around the track once or twice tend to see design in literally everything. For these designers, everything relates to design in some way. Design shifts from being specific and literal to being general and metaphorical.
I don't think that this type of evolution is exclusive to design. I have seen a similar change in people who play tabletop games. Early on gamers struggle to understand simple mechanics, how they work and how mechanic are combine to create a specific experience. As a gamer becomes more experienced they begin to see the broader perspective. I don't feel like I'm quite there yet myself — but, I think I see it in other, more experienced gamers. They sometimes refer to a thing called "gaming the game" or "gaming the ________." They are able to see everything through the lens of game concepts.
As I have grown older, my design lens has become increasingly broad and metaphorical. How does this progress happen? For me, there seems to be several key factors. The first is immersion in the topic. I have a bit of an obsessive personality and this quality helps me to focus. Secondly is making. I need to make something or write something. I may not be very good at the making part but I still have to do it. It is an important part of how I think and how I process information.
As I continue to be obsessed with board games I don't know what will come of it. But, I think it will be with me for a while. Interestingly I feel that I am just beginning to adopt a game lens as a way of viewing things. I suspect that this second lens for me is a powerful compliment to my design lens and I'm excited to see how the two of them might work together. I wonder if perhaps they are are actually two elements of a single lens.