Friday 16 December 2011

Define Design

Apparently Design is Horseshit.

However, design is not horseshit and here’s why in three easy takeaway chunks, hastly written in ten minutes.

Design is deeper than an aesthetic.

Design is not a veneer that get’s placed on the top of an object to mask the internals from the user. Design asks if the veener even needs to exist, and what can be done with the internals so that a veneer may be not needed. Design will have you working out if you should fuse the internals with the external. It may be easier to manufacture that way, but will that impinge in the experience of using the object? Design will have you test your hypothesis and base your decisions on your experiements and digressions.

In the end you may very well have placed that veneer on top of the internals, but design would have lead an enquiry as to the best way to do this. Design is deeper than aesthetic.

Design is tangible.

The $300 million dollar button is an example of tangible design. The designers in that example didn’t make anything look prettier, they just removed a button. No fancy graphics, no eye candy, just some thought and exploration of process.

Another example is the company who had a large skyscraper type building and they had a problem. Employees were complaining about there not being enough lifts (elevators in USA speak) to get them from the ground floor to the floor of their choice. In an attempt to solve the problem the company put tenders out to install new lifts. Quotes for the work were measured in millions. One man however asserted he could solve the problem with just $5000 and no major engineering work. His solution was to use the $5000 to make the ground floor more comfortable to wait in. The solution worked pefectly and his solution didn’t contain any fancy graphics.

With $300 million dollar revenue, and millions save in pointless major structural engineering I’d assert design is tangible, and not an intangible magical visual spell.

Design can be how something looks.

It can be. But when it is, the designer has specifically crafted a visual experience in order to incite a reaction. It is the same process that saved millions in needless structural work. It is the same process that earned $300 million in revenues. It is the same process that pushes design teams to explore the why, what, where, who, how and when of all possible solutions.

A skilled designer produces skilled work, a horseshit designer produces horseshit work.

Then and only then is design horseshit.