Sunday, February 15, 2009

Approaching Design as topic

From what I can find there is no common description of what design is. There are quite many different definitions around the web and several additional ones if you look through books on the subject.

Let’s have a look at the better candidates of what I found by googling the topic.

As a verb one definition I like is “to plan and make (something) artistically”. As a noun there are other good ones such as “an ornamental pattern” or “the arrangement or features of an artistic or decorative work”. These speak about the artistic nature of the word which is highly relevant.

Another way to look at is through formal definitions. A good one by Dick Buchanan who is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University School of Design says:

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

This is nice. It takes into consideration the human component in the creative process and in the perspective of the end user. It also, the way I read it, takes into consideration the realities of turning an idea into a product. This is a useful insight but I rarely find it to be properly attached to design in particular and more associated with product or business development in general, where design is of relevance but not the primary responsibility. I can't claim to understand what the last third of the definition really means, “in the accomplishment of any individual or collective purpose”. Maybe it exists to exclude that which has no purpose. Maybe I should take some time and study the topic in question rather than ramble on about it.

Despite the fact that I like this definition by Dick Buchanan as well as some descriptions of the meaning of the word design I don’t find them useful to serve the purpose of approaching the everyday problems of designing products.

Instead of spending a lot of time to find a definition which works for me I’ll make my own. I want a definition which is useful when describing what I do. Which also brings out the kind of goals a design effort aims to meet. It would be nice if the definition also is easily understood by normal people. A definition made for specialists may be helpful when digging deep into the problem but a definition suitable to the topics I intend to dig at with this blog needs to be relatively simple.

My definition of design becomes this:

Design is a process that realize the value of an idea.

Is this enough, or is it too wide? A potential point of failure for this definition is the concept of “user value”. This definition becomes all about user value, but it excludes the conception of the idea. Unless the idea is to come up with a valuable idea in which case we can apply the design process to develop the idea in itself, messing around with paradox is not a hobby of mine so I’ll quit here.

If I am lucky someone will come along and shoot this definition down before I get horribly entangled with it. Next topic might take a closer look at user value in particular.

No comments:

Post a Comment