Life-time learner's blog

What is Design?

Hello, dear readers!

It’s been very long time since I last wrote here. Sorry about that, I was busy a little bit. Meanwhile a new semester started and we already have plenty of boring academic stuff to do in all subjects. Our English classes are not an exception: we have a lot of tasks for our homework, and this semester is going to be full of reports, essays and presentations. So, I thought it would be a good idea to publish my homework right here. Any objections? 😉 Then, let’s get started!

The first task that our English teacher, Victoria Vladimirovna, gave us, is to prepare an article on the topic “What is design?”. I’ve done a little research on the net. Take a look at what I found.

Report: What is Design?

What is Design?

Design is everywhere – and that’s why looking for a definition may not help you grasp what it is. The word design means different things to different people. There are broad definitions and specific ones – both have drawbacks. Either they are too general to be meaningful or they exclude too much.

Wikipedia gives the following definitions:

  • (noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;
  • (verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates).

One definition given by designer Richard Seymour is ‘making things better for people‘. It emphasises that design activity is focused first on human behaviour and quality of life, not factors like distributor preferences. But nurses or road sweepers could say they, too, ‘make things better for people‘. There may be no absolute definitions of design that will please everyone.

Scientists can invent technologies, manufacturers can make products, engineers can make them function and marketers can sell them, but only designers can combine insight into all these things and turn a concept into something that is desirable, practical, commercially successful and adds value to people’s lives.

There are many misconceptions about design. Magazines often use the word design when they mean style or fashion. For example, when they show a toaster or bottle opener which is well designed, the result is that people think that design is all about how things look. Design is also about how things work. In reality, the way how a product looks is something that (usually) happens at the end of development process.

Designers, unlike artists, can’t simply follow their creative feelings. They work in a commercial environment, which  means there are many points to consider. Designers have to ask themselves questions such as: ‘Is the product really wanted?‘, ‘How is it different from everything else on the market?‘, ‘Does it fulfil a need?‘, ‘Will it cost too much to manufacture?‘ and ‘Is it safe?

Design is fundamental. People often need reminding that everything around us is designed and that design decisions impact on nearly every part of our lives, be it the environments we work in, the way we book holidays, or the way we go about getting the lid off the jam jar. When those things work, it’s taken for granted, but, as Bill Moggridge, founder of international consultancy IDEO, says: ‘A lot of trial and error goes into making things look effortless‘. And I completely agree.

List of words

  1. drawback – problem or disadvantage;
  2. to accomplish – to achieve or complete successfully;
  3. misconception – a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding;
  4. to fulfil – carry through: put in effect; “carry out a task”; “execute the decision of the people”;
  5. creative – relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work;
  6. insight – an understanding of this kind;
  7. to get the lid off a jar – to open a jar;
  8. emphasise – underline, strengthen in the meaning.


Thanks for visiting. Goog luck with you English!
Anton Danshin
P.S. Can you give any example of the best or the worst design? Each answer is appreciated.

2 responses to “What is Design?

  1. DANON February 11, 2012 at 22:40

    походу в нашем учебнике текст из U7.1 Ex. 2 спи****ли из статьи от Design Council. Ну я тоже решил так сделать 🙂

  2. Mohammad Albaba June 10, 2012 at 14:44

    Nice article. Being from a software engineering background, we have an entire phase in software development life cycle called design in which we plan how to solve the problem at hand. Design often involves combining conflicting forces and factors which necessitates the existence of some trade-offs.

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