What is Design
My tutor’s favourite line in my early college days was to ask us “What is Design.” That answer was always plain and simple, “Problem Solving.” But it encompasses much more than that. Design is a plan or blueprint that provides a structural meaning to our environment, natural or otherwise. It can consist of an actual designed object, such as a product, or a design process like a business method. Whether you are aware of it or not
Why Design Matters
Design matters because it supports our cognitive abilities such as our motor skills, memory, perception, visual and spatial processing. For example, shape and colour are just two elements that play a crucial role in identifying and organising visual information. This visual language is formed in the early stages of cognitive development. We see this in preschool children when they learn to identify and name circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles. As learning develops they begin to use spatial orientation to describe the relative positions of objects.
Colour plays a huge role in design and is thought to be the most important visual experience for human beings. It creates its own psychological response in us, including mental and emotional responses. For example, advertisers use colour to draw attention to a product and influence our decisions. Colour can also be used to help support our memory. We see this in everyday life such as signage, and in techniques such as Mind Mapping developed by Tony Buzan. Some studies show that memory-related problems such as learning difficulties, autism and dyslexia can also benefit from the use of colour.
The Language of Design
Thoughtful design demands that we define and organise in a visual way that brings stories to life. It is guided by many structural elements such as shape, colour, form, texture, scale, movement, space, and proportion. The more we understand the language of design, the more effectively we can communicate with our intended audience. Visual language should be intuitive and allow us to connect with ourselves and others at a deeper level. It is about creating products and experiences that change the way we live, work, think and play.
“Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.” Richard Grefé
Keeping it Simple
Some of the most successful designers work with the principle of keeping things really simple. Steve Jobs (February 1955 – October 2011) is a great example of this design philosophy. He was probably one of the most prolific creative entrepreneurs of our time. His love of simplicity in design and making products easy to use was a huge driving force behind Apple’s success with the Macintosh, the iMac, iPhone, and the iPad.
The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.– Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs’s father taught him early on the importance of craft, and the attention to detail.
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood in the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.
This early childhood lesson is evident throughout all of his work. He insisted that his designs were especially perfect, inside and out. Everything was carefully considered from the renowned apple icon to the interior circuit boards of his computers.
His passion and attention to detail were to revolutionise six industries from personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
For more information on Steve Jobs read his compelling interview for Wired Magazine Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing
Some of our greatest designers explain why Design Matters to them.
Design in our Everyday Lives
We may not always be aware of it but design shape’s our lives in more ways than we can imagine. From architecture, the clothes you wear and the ordinary day to day objects that we use. Design matters because it permeates our live’s providing shelter, warmth, entertainment, work and everything else in between.
Most of the decisions we make are directly related to design, down to the choices we make for our food. How often have you chosen a cereal or pizza, based on how the packaging looks? Maybe it’s the recognisable brand that offers you quality reassurance. The aesthetics, how it makes us feel and the perceived value of an object, service or place all come to mind when we make choices, whether consciously or subconsciously.
“What people want is the extra, the emotional bonus they get when they buy something they love.” – Seth Godin
On a more personal level design helps us to communicate, it shape’s our identities, its tells us stories about who we are, where we came from and most importantly where we are going.