My Definition of Design: Making Something Useful to Humans
Over the years, the boundaries of design are something that I’ve had to sell to my colleagues time and time again, since through blind semantics, its definition is something that often changes with context and industry. Worst of all, sometimes it gets minimized to “making things pretty” by applying visual style to something, but it’s obviously much broader than that.
Simply put, design is making something useful to humans. Whether it’s creating an engaging experience, translating a brand’s message, or creating a tool to help someone do something, design is everywhere. Designers don’t create the ‘things’, they make them useful. For example, I didn’t create the words, but I designed this sentence by arranging them to communicate to you what I’m trying to say. When we’re talking about a print publication’s idea of art direction, or a clothing manufacturer’s idea of fashion, or a video game’s idea of user experience, we’re really talking about ‘design.’
Charles Eames’ definition:
[Design is] a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.
John Pavlus from this article about the London Tube Map/Diagram wraps up his discussion quite nicely:
Designing is often described as “solving,” but isn’t it more about engaging — connecting with users, conversing with them even, via these artifacts? That’s not to say designers and design-observers shouldn’t think critically about why artifacts “work” or not. But no design is “right,” “true,” or “done” for everyone at all times; the conversation will change.
As we talk about the idea of ‘content’, we will likewise talk about how it is being consumed. That’s design.
- Date: 10.Dec.11