The Way of the Problem Solver

Words: Lisa Richardson

We put our best energy into designing our gear. We build it to last, endure the wildest conditions, and even, possibly, to outlive our adventures.

We also use more finite resources from an overtapped planet than we would like. That’s a problem.

In a world full of such problems, what does it mean to be a problem solver?

It’s not an idle question, this. It’s an existential question.

Problem-solving is an approach Arc’teryx has pursued for 30 years, and it has resulted in many innovations and products we are proud of. But the designer of 2019 isn’t in the artefact business anymore. We’re in the consequence business.

Focussing exclusively on solving for a better zipper, a superior harness, a slicker jacket, making a cruxy sequence, or attaining a physical objective, is a position of privilege none of us can afford to hold. Especially not any of us who have skills to offer the larger cause, who aren’t ready to give up on being part of the evolving experiment of life on Earth – for the better.

Our search for answers took us out of our design HQ, out of our home-base, out into the world, to find other people working at the junction of nature and Design who are confronting intractable problems to try to make lives better.

We discovered that inspiring and effective problem-solvers, no matter the field they’re in or what challenge they’re approaching, share common traits: humility, a commitment to collaboration and a deep love for wild places.

At Arc’teryx, we are perfectionists, fanatics, gear-heads, outdoor-lovers. But we are designers first. Designers are more than tinkerers, artists, and makers. Designers are agents for change – leaning into hard problems, applying a process and ethos that creates possibility.

We want to celebrate and articulate this approach, and the people who practice it.

As a company with a near-obsessive commitment to design baked into our genetic code, we’ve been chasing perfection from the beginning. It is a hard moment to step out from behind a refined technical product, and offer, instead, a process. But then we looked around, at these fellow problem-solvers, and were reminded, this is how it begins. With the humble art of showing up. That we might find ourselves one among many, collaborating, dreaming and designing our way to a better world. Because that is the way of the problem-solver.

Give shape to possibility. Push personal frontiers. Show up, don’t give up.

The world is full of problems. Now is the time to think beyond the product, and make  problem-solving contagious. Design is our way forward. Make it yours.

Watch the series, The Problem Solvers, launching on August 1, 2019.