What is Design Anyway?

It’s a good question. Many people think design is the science of making something look cool.

While great design almost always looks attractive, this is not the primary goal of design.

Design is the process of identifying a problem and finding the best possible solution to that problem.

A graphic designer works on visual problems. Does the graphic say what the words say? Can it be understood at a glance? Does it make people look in a visually crowded space?

An architect works on the problems of how people move around in spaces that we build. Where do you put your coat when you enter? How does the shape and arrangement of the room make people move around in the the space?

An industrial designer solves the problems of how the human body interacts with physical things to make simple things like chairs and spoons work even better or sometimes just differently than before.

Often, we miss the mark of design by focusing on how these things look when we should be focusing on how they work.

I find it helpful to ask the big questions in any design process again and again no matter what stage of the process I am in. Questions like, “Why are we doing this,” and “What is it for,” are the main two I am constantly jumping back to. We all get caught up in our own ideas and standing back and looking at our designs from afar and asking the big questions can get us back on the path to truth.

If you are interested in a very deep exploration of the basics of design thinking, read “Design as Art” by Bruno Munari. It is a fantastic book on design and why it is different than art and it is a monumental classic in design thinking.

Have a nice day and happy designing!

Jesse Barney