Understanding Design

You've held a hundred of these. They serve multiple purposes and perform none of them well. Time for a change.
You’ve held a hundred of these. They serve multiple purposes and perform none of them well. Time for a change.

Paying Attention: There is so much press today about the importance of design in our lives, that it might be a good idea to verify that we’re all on the same page when it comes to an understanding of what design is and how it works.
Design is not just graphic design–the arrangement of elements of art, type, photography–on a page. And it is not simply the shape or outline or form of something, although that’s certainly an element, especially in areas like industrial design which, although one of the most esoteric areas of design, has been the major driver of the current renaissance of interest in design.
Design–graphic, product, industrial, architectural, interior, exterior, ┬ámechanical–is first and foremost a thought and research project, in which the designer (regardless of discipline) takes apart the elements of a given design assignment, rethinks the entire set of variables that exist, creates new elements that do not currently exist, and then pushes everything together into a final design that is unitized, beautiful, elegant, simple (it’s hard to make complex things simple, as we all know…but that is the mark of the gifted) and effective. Really good design has a massive “Oh, yea, that makes sense” element to it, the visceral reality that the design is so ┬ápure, it couldn’t be any other way (until the next disruptive design comes along).
We can thank Apple for pushing design out to the masses, but before Apple there was SONY, JBL, Herman Miller, Knoll, Ray and Charles Eames, Mies, Ettore Sotsass, Pininfarina, Milton Glaser, Herb Lubalin. All brilliant designers of their times and simultaneously ahead of them.
A very good and enjoyable design brief is Peter Smart’s overview of a new design for that most common of worldly objects–the airplane ticket. Read it, take in it’s multiple messages, and enjoy. And then–as it’s the weekend–play around with a little design of something yourself for an hour or two.

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