What is Design?

It strikes me that we keep talking about design, designers and designing on this website, but we have no specific, common definition of what an industrial designer does, the requisite skillset and their deliverables. As a result, we keep giving student confusing or seemingly contradictory answers to their questions about their careers and school choices.

So world, what is design? What does a designer do? What is the minimum skillset of a designer?

Maybe thats because the definition shifts as oour culture changes.

Don’t pin it down. We need for it to grow if we want design to grow.

-commence flaming-[/b]

Agreed. Globalization, technology and culture are constantly reshaping the profession. As an educator, this can also be an excuse.

Saying that I teach something without definition provides too much wiggle room to be lazy and not teach the un-fun stuff. On the other side, it creates the impulse to be over reactive to the trends of the moment.

This is the chicken or the egg question for our profession… So many of my teacher when I was in school would ask these type of questions: What is Design? What makes you a designer? etc… All the students would write in a paragraph what they thought, and the teacher would review them… All the answers were different but all were right and had truths to them…

Personally the way I look at it is: Design is a broad term, but is exsits everywhere in anyone lifes. Not just what Industrail Designers create, but in nature, and art, and pretty much anywhere you look… There is potential for design all round you right now…

“A good designer is like water.”

-You can be transformed to the shape of the container <user, time, market or firm>.
-People need you and you get rid of their thirst.
-You can be easily dried up or even get easily tainted by other things, thus you need to know what you are and what you are becoming.
-Even if you think you are in the wrong place, you have ability to purify yourself and reform.

I assume that all designers are aware of at least the IDSA’s “specific, common definition of what an industrial designer does, the requisite skillset and their deliverables.” If not, read up people!

Click “about ID”

Beyond that, there are plenty of points to debate about specifics and the future of design. I really enjoyed Dan Formosa’s insight from “the Smart Survey” (see his IDSA:MW webcast, link avail on the clogger) that pointed out that “design is being redefined, the experience of using a product was more strongly related to the definition of design than the visual aspects of the product.”

at the base of it, there is a definition of ‘design’.

no one definition needs to be determined as difinitive. As with all definitions, they are working concepts, always changing. like the shape of poopy i make in the toilet.

DESIGN: Idea that has been given form

DESIGN: form that came from an idea

DESIGN: A form that came from an idea that people did.

Here’s the IDSA definition of industrial design:

Industrial design is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.

Industrial designers develop these concepts and specifications through collection, analysis and synthesis of data guided by the special requirements of the client or manufacturer. They are trained to prepare clear and concise recommendations through drawings, models and verbal descriptions.

Industrial design services are often provided within the context of cooperative working relationships with other members of a development group. Typical groups include management, marketing, engineering and manufacturing specialists. The industrial designer expresses concepts that embody all relevant design criteria determined by the group.

The industrial designer’s unique contribution places emphasis on those aspects of the product or system that relate most directly to human characteristics, needs and interests. This contribution requires specialized understanding of visual, tactile, safety and convenience criteria, with concern for the user. Education and experience in anticipating psychological, physiological and sociological factors that influence and are perceived by the user are essential industrial design resources.

Industrial designers also maintain a practical concern for technical processes and requirements for manufacture; marketing opportunities and economic constraints; and distribution sales and servicing processes. They work to ensure that design recommendations use materials and technology effectively, and comply with all legal and regulatory requirements.

In addition to supplying concepts for products and systems, industrial designers are often retained for consultation on a variety of problems that have to do with a client’s image. Such assignments include product and organization identity systems, development of communication systems, interior space planning and exhibit design, advertising devices and packaging and other related services. Their expertise is sought in a wide variety of administrative arenas to assist in developing industrial standards, regulatory guidelines and quality control procedures to improve manufacturing operations and products.

Industrial designers, as professionals, are guided by their awareness of obligations to fulfill contractual responsibilities to clients, to protect the public safety and well-being, to respect the environment and to observe ethical business practice

Apparently, we provide market analysis, concept design, supply chain consulting, legal consulting, environmental impact consulting, space design, graphic design and user testing.

JEEZ, even giant consultances like Accenture don’t claim that breadth of service. would you believe a salesman from an 8-20 person group who said that their employees were each trained to do that?

What are te core competencies that need to be trained. To say we draw pretty pictures and shiny models really isn’t enough in a world where we rarely design mechanical products anymore…

The ultimate goal of design for a company is to make money, and being a designer, your job is to create a skin, an experience to make people open up their wallets to keep the economy going.

DESIGN= money.
Design that doesn’t sell is junk.
Design that satisfies your own ego but not the consumer=art.

two thoughts:

In our country manufacturing is increasingly being replaced by service (Manufacturing was only 11% of economy last year). As a result, the portion of the economic pie that is available to IDers of your definition is shrinking.

Each coming generation of premium consumer products will have more sensing, memory and processing capability than the last. As a result, these products will start to compete with traditional service providers for their share of the share of the pie by AUTOMATING SERVICES.

Early examples of this are websites like Travelocity that are reinventing service industries. A more subtle example of this is the coffeemaker with the built in grinder, clock and bean storage that MAKES your coffee FOR YOU. The integration of iPod and iTunes create a seamless, space efficient way to browse, purchase and organize music. The idea that products will automate behaviors that we used to do or be unable to do ourselves is by no means mine. I am simply observing that this trend is moving from a stage where it is being talked about to a stage where it is being assumed and seamlessly integrated into consumer lifestyles.

An understanding of and an ability to specify this sort of product behaviorism was a central skill of the industrial designer in mechanical world. Dyson and the fine folks at rubbermaid being examples dujour.

As more and more product value comes from product behavior that is based on sensing, memory and computation, does it make more sense to be giving this core value away to new professions or to be expanding our toolset?

the answer to this is yes… to both parts. if this ‘core value’ is of interest to you then i would say learn it… if it isn’t, then don’t learn it and focus on something else.

look at masters graduates from ‘library science’ programs… more of them work in technology sectors than in traditional libraries… the programs are now generally called ‘information studies’. so if you graduate from ‘library science’ and work at an internet company are you still a librarian? do you care? if you like your work you probably don’t. if you are an ‘industrial design’ graduate but you work designing software interfaces are you an ‘industrial designer’? again… do you care?

the IDSA definition is a pretty cut and dry description of professional ID sevices… in twenty years it will probably have to be rewritten, tweaked at the very least… if ID exists at all!

But the world is full of people, not occupations… i like ID because it appeals to my sensibilities and my skills but if something new comes along to fit that bill then i will be all over it.

Is the question really ‘what is design’? or is it 'what does designing mean to designers"?.. the answers are quite different.


This thread is getting interesting and requires a thoughtful reply.

-in the meantime, one thing about the IDSA definition- it is boring. These is an ingrained jealousy when people realize what we do- and I would think that this is part of our definition.

it’s bull shitting…

design: something white people invented to feel once again superior.

only to be taken over by yellow people because white people are too ‘superior’ to work in a factory. eheh

design is ubiquitous - its all around us.

While y’all don’t seem to be able to define industrial design.

It’s kind of interesting that all y’all with the wise ass comments want to pay a mortgage at a job that you seem to be unable to articulate or define value of.

–the prof