Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What is Design?......

(truthbeauty - image from gapingvoid.com cartoons drawn on the back of business cards)

Over the years I have been collecting descriptions of design from various sources and I thought it may be interesting to bring them out and look at them together.
To begin with there are these insights from Ranjan, these are from my notes taken during many design concepts and concerns classes.

Design is a specification creating process not a specification following process.
(DCC 2002)

Design is like a sponge absorbing from all fields, unlike the others design is looking at questions which do not have one answer.
(DCC 2002)

Design is a resolution of complex variables.
(DCC 2003)

Design is a process of visualising models which express complexity.
(DCC 2003)

Design is a reflexive situation. You are part of the context and you also impose yourself on the context.
(DCC 2004)

Then there are these form various design thinkers. I noted these when I found them to be a fine articulation of an idea or one that uncovers a new aspect of design, unfortunately I have not noted the sources and dates which i can see now would have been very useful.

“Designing is not a profession……it is the organization of materials and processes in the most productive way” Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

The area of human experience, skill, and understanding that reflicts man's concern with the enhancement of order, utility, value and meaning in his habitat. Bruce Archer

We are searching for some kind of harmony between two intangibles: a form which we have not yet designed and a context which we cannot properly describe.
Christopher Alexander

"the future job of a designer is to give substance to new ideas while taking away the physical and organizational foundations of old ones. In this situation, it is nonsense to think of designing as the satisfaction of existing requirements. New needs grow and old needs decay . . ."
John Chris Jones

Every human being is a designer.Many also earn their living by design - in every field that warrants pause, and careful consideration, between conceiving of an action and a fashioning of a means to carry it out, and an estimation of its effects.
Norman Potter

‘All men are designers’ where ‘design is the conscious effort to impose meaningful order’ (Papanek, 1972)

"Design is an expression of purpose. It may (if it is good enough) later be judged as art."
Charles Eames' famous response to that question in 1972, during an interview with Madame L'Amic of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris

"Design is the human power to conceive, plan, and realize products that serve human beings in the accomplishment of any individual or collective purpose."
Dick Buchanan

design is creatively extending, elaborating, questioning, and overcoming
existing conceptions in view of the future realities they promote for others
to live in.
---Klaus Krippendorf

We should not underestimate the crucial importance of leadership and design joining forces. Our global future depends on it. We will either design our way through the deadly challenges of this century, or we won't make it. For our institutions - in truth, for our civilization - to survive and prosper, we must solve extremely complex problems and cope with many bewildering dilemmas. We cannot assume that, following our present path, we will simply evolve toward a better world. But we can design that better world. That is why designers need to become leaders, and why leaders need to become designers.
---Richard Farson (noise between stations on design thinking)

In the end, design is about shaping a context, rather than taking it as it is. When it comes to design, success arises not by emulating others, but by using organizational assets and integrative thinking to identify, build on, and leverage asymmetries, evolving unique models, products and experiences -- in short, creative business solutions.
----Roger Martin

Design is a tradition of inquiry and action that predates any of the other traditions. It is the essential competence that identifies us as humans and makes it possible for us to act with intention. Design is the means by which humans continue to participate in the ongoing genesis of the real world. Through our innate capacity to design, we have created our cosmologies, cultures, and technologies. Design is a distinct form of inquiry: not a midpoint on a continuum between art and science, or one of the end points-design is neither applied art, nor science.
---Harold Nelson

We differentiate design from art and science by the concept of service. Design is defined as service on behalf of someone else-a contractual relationship. Artists and scientists engage in forms of service legitimately focused more on their own interests. Artists express their emotions and feelings; scientists express their curiosity about the world. Designers, however, serve the needs and desires of others. This does not mean that designers are not aesthetic or rational, they are both, but most importantly they are empathic.
---Harold Nelson

Designers are participants in the lives of others -- Jan Kuypers

Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.
Paola Antonelli

In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
Steve Jobs, Founder and CEO, Apple

About a year ago on phd design there was a thread on definitions of design in which one of the participants (Paul Osmond) shared this simple yet profound little gem from Ezio Manzini -

"Design is a process of structuring relationships".
It is my current favorite till another one comes along.


Prof. M P Ranjan said...

Dear Rashmi

A wonderful list of ideas on design. My quote in 2004 was made after I had just read a book by George Soros where he proposed that financial markets are reflexive and he offered a theory of reflexivity. I felt that design did just that when we move our intentions to make or change something through our design thoughts and actions there are others out there who would respond in a variety of ways which makes the act reflexive.

Design is an act that takes place in a field filled with other creative and caring and in cases opposing people who would respond to any offering and this kind of response cannot be anticipated but we should learn to expect this action and reaction. This makes design very political especially if what is being attempted is a major change or any massive improvement and the vested interests would be upset with such a move or possibility.

korjan said...

maybe, these views too could add to your collection?

Meena Kadri said...

Great collection Rashmi.

... and i think Milton Glaser's definition that design encompasses the process of going from an existing position to a preferred one is relevant as well.

I interviewed Peter Salmon down here in New Zealand recently & he spoke of his disenchantment with graphic design and commented:

“The role of the designer is in transition,” warns Peter. “Rather than positioning themselves as guardians of style they have the skills to help businesses recognise opportunities. With the growing popularity of participatory approaches they can take a central role as the facilitators of collaboration.” (http://www.designassembly.org.nz/?p=145)

I took from this that as we have a background in telling clients stories we can also catalyse their conversations. And why stop at clients?

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