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What is Design?

By February 6, 2012 No Comments

“Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point:  design is inevitable.  The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.  Everyone makes design decisions all the time without realizing it – like Moliere’s M. Jourdain who discovered he had been speaking prose all his life – and good design is simply the result of making these decisions consciously, at the right state, and in consultation with others as the need arises.”   – Douglas Martin

I’m heading to New York City for Fashion Week in a couple days, courtesy of Brizo Faucet.  Many of this year’s “Blogger 19”, as well as those fortunate to have been invited to this event in the past, have been addressing the relationship of faucets and fashion, since inevitably we all get that question “What do faucets have to do with fashion?” when we announce we’re going to this event.  And typically the bloggers have elaborated on the relationship of fashion designer Jason Wu with Brizo to answer this, and how Jason has been able to apply his talents in both arenas.  But I’d like to go beyond fashion and faucets to discuss design in general.  
(image via brandacadabra)

design: (from Merriam Webster)
  • to conceive and plan out in the mind <he designed the perfect crime>
  • to have as a purpose : intend <she designed to excel in her studies>
  • to devise for a specific function or end <a book designed primarily as a college textbook>
  • to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan
What is design?  Design is EVERYWHERE!  From nature to homes to automobiles to words to graphics to clothing to common everyday items… as the quote above says, there is no such thing as “no design” – it exists in all areas, and we all do it, regardless of whether we call it a career or not.  WE ALL DESIGN.  Maybe we do it without thinking about it, or maybe we torment over it for days.  It’s still design.  
So if we all do it, why are some people considered professionals in design?  Though some people are more creative than others, there’s more to it than that.  Design professionals have a better understanding of the process of design, a process which is a design in itself.  I love this deconstructed sentence from ytiffanie, using a quote from John Heskett’s book, “Design: A Very Short Introduction”:
Yes, it’s confusing, but essentially the point is that design is an idea and a process as much as it is a final product.  The final product won’t be anything without the correct process in place to get there.  Good designers understand this and study this and dedicate their lives to it, regardless of what they are designing.
And that, in a nutshell, is what faucets and fashion have in common.  
(For those who think I’m not philosophical enough, there’s an intriguing and much more in-depth article on the definition of design at echo enduring blog.)