What is design? Having just completed a design degree and now working as a designer, this is a question I get a lot. I am constantly attempting to explain to people what it is that I actually do and was being taught for the last four years. Often the immediate assumption is that I mean fashion design, or ‘posters and stuff’. One of my favourite parts of design is graphic design, so I do in fact have a lot to do with ‘posters and stuff’. But what people are often unaware of is that design has a lot more depth to it than just ‘prettifying’ things.
Part of the issue with defining design, lies in the nature of the word itself. I recall in my very first design lecture, hearing a quote from designer, John Heskett: “Design is to design a design to create a design.” It sounds like nonsense, but it actually makes sense. The first ‘design’ is a noun, meaning the general concept of design. The second, a verb, a process. The third is a noun again but referring to a concept/ prototype. The final ‘design’ is a noun, the finished product. It is safe to say there is not one concise definition for design- It is a complex and multi-faceted concept.
While design comes in many forms, I think it is most powerful in its verb form- as a process. Traditionally design has been seen as the end of a development process- where designers (who have not been involved in a new innovation at all) come along at the end and make this already developed product more attractive to customers. Today, however, designers are being involved from the beginning to the end of the development process of a new innovation to create ideas that will better meet consumers’ needs. This process is known as design thinking:
“Design thinking is an approach that uses the designers’ sensibility and methods for problem solving to meet people’s needs in a technologically feasible and commercially viable way. In other words, design thinking is human-centred innovation.”
Tim Brown, IDEO CEO- Design Thinking by Tim Brown – Harvard Business Review
Basically, design thinking is a way of innovating through observing what people want and need in their lives and what they like and dislike. It sounds simple but it is so vitally important, and often is overlooked.
Below is a trailer for a very recent design thinking documentary called ‘Design and Thinking‘. Even the trailer is inspiring: It sums up beautifully what I have been trying to express in this post and gives a really nice insight into how design thinking is viewed by a number of different designers. Take a look!
image courtesy of http://www.fastcompany.com/1643489/biomimicry-challenge-ideo-uses-nature-to-reorganize-the-usgbc