What is Product design?


Lately and actually ever since I can recall people think of designers as people who make beautiful expensive objects.
And I can’t help myself to think that many of my colleges share the same idea. They keep on restyling the same products over and over again. For me design is not about the shape, appearance and color. It is off course a part of it. Beautiful objects are adored and cherished, ugly ones are quickly cast away. But design is so much more. As a designer I feel that we should re-invent/re-think products instead of merely restyling them. Otherwise we have just made more expensive garbage. Therefore I’ve made this definition of design:

“Design concerns the relationship, and the optimization thereof, between the user and his tools.”

Any other views? Is design only about pretty looks…are we really that shallow?


I think we get pidgeon-holed into being stylists a lot, but good design is really a lot more than that. Function, before form is sooo important.

Just say anything in Dieter Ram’s voice/accent and that’s what design is.

“You must cut it… so that the bird can flew through!”

Making things pretty isn’t all we do, but it is a big part of it as well. Design is different things to different people. Trying to come up with a universal definition is like asking “what is art”…

I’m not sure I have ever looked up “design” in the dictionary, so I did and of course there are a few.
a. To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent
b. To formulate a plan for; devise

  1. To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form

  2. To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect:

  3. To have as a goal or purpose; intend.

  4. To create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner.

I would imagine most of us don’t think design is just about pretty looks. There are plenty of designed things that just get the job done. Of course, there are things whose only difference is being pretty. Honestly, I love pretty things, and I don’t think that is shallow.
I don’t know why some things captivate me more than others, they just do.

And design can be more than being about making expensive things. I’ll bet most of us spend a great deal of time designing with low costs in mind. Trying to optimize form and function and the bottom line.

On the original subject:

People have different interests in design. Some care more about aesthetics, some don’t give a shit. The profession is big enough that it’s okay for everyone to have separate views on what’s the most important. The way you speak about styling is almost condescending.

And I think your description is so general and leaves out a lot of stuff about design. You’re basically only talking about product design. It wouldn’t fit graphic design, or service design.

I don’t think there will ever be a definition that everyone agrees on. I still don’t know what to say when someone asks me what I do. I don’t think I will until I’m old and saggy.

(By the way, why do you say Grtz at the end of every post? You know that means Congratulations, right?)

well said tarng

The best and most concise definition I have found is ‘the process of creation.’

NIce :wink:

I do hope so still I see many designs that are expensive because the designer wanted a specific look. Undercuts in injection moulded pieces. Materials that are hard to form in via a specific tooling process yet they do it anyway…just because they can. Marc Newson is really good at this and his objects are super-expensive (most of them).

Condescendin…yes maybe but I’m trying to make a point here. I elaborated on this further in this similar tread:

And yes I did not think about other designs. such as fashion, graphic design, etc… Should change the title to: What is Product design?
And I did not know that Grtz means congrats…English is not my native language thanks for pointing this out.

Sincerely :wink:


I initiated a definition exercise at the office a couple of weeks ago, we ended up with close to 100 unique definitions.

My initial definition that kicked it off still stands true for me:

“Design is the ability to see nothing is as it should be, coupled with the desire and aptitude to do something about it.”

That can be a completely new product meeting an unmet need, and it can be a better more beautiful iteration of something, and everything in between.

The question “what is Product design” seems to me to not be the real question. The question seems to be more about the design process. As a non-traditional student of Interior Design I think of design as trying to solve a problem. There may be a problem with both form (space) and function. I think aesthetics must be considered but I don’t think that considering aesthetics is shallow. In almost any type of design customers or consumers are paying for a service or idea. They want a “problem” fixed and as designers we must consider the aesthetics. I think we have to consider many concepts and ideas as we approach a design idea. I agree with Cameron that design is ‘’ the process of Creation". As an interior designer I want to be a creator…to create an environment that meets the needs of the client. In response to Atohms i find that we do “restyling” at times. That doesn’t have to be negative. Restyling can help in saving the environment, by reusing material and can still be cost effective. I don’t think our goal should be how much money can we make, it can still be good design even if we are re-styling and/or reusing material. I love designing and the challenge of problem solving.

To imagine a purpose driven arrangement and realize it.

I’ve always used the Wikipedia definition for industrial design and refer to it often for others and to see how it changes over time: Industrial design - Wikipedia

The definition of Product Design has changed on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_design,… I disagree with it since its brief definition portrays ID as mere artistic craft while citing a methodology that appears equally screwy.

I really like Yo’s definition :wink:

Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.

~Michael Scott

I had to.

Thank you for the link to wikipedia (although I do not consider it to be academic). However, I did look at the discussions on that link. There seems to be some controversy as to weather architects should be listed as notable Industrial Designers. My orginal posting was on the Interior Design field and as an interior design students our education include many courses that relate to architecture. According to interior design | Definition, History, Styles, & Facts | Britannica Britannica encyclopedia has a definition for the Interior Designer is " The designer’s goal is to produce a coordinated and harmonious whole in which the architecture, site, function, and visual aspects of the interior are unified, pleasing to mind and body, and appropriate to the activities to be pursued there". Design criteria include harmony of color, texture, lighting, scale, and proportion". Architects also pursue the same goals. Unfortunately, many architects and others feel that interior design is a field that is not necessary since Architects do address the same criteria. I happen to think there is room for both. I think that Architects are more related to engineering. I feel that as designers of any field we must include harmony as part of the function of what ever we design. I certainly disagree with those that believe interior design is a “mere artistic craft” or hobby. Michael, because anyone in the world can post on Wikipedia I do not think that it a website that I can count on for facts and am cautious about its credibility. Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are solved. As my first posting stated Designing is problem solving! Isn’t that true for whatever you are ask to design? Someone has asked for solutions to a problem that needs to be solved.

Brilliant M. Scott Quote, MrTwills! LOL.

Definitions from IDSA, ICSID, CMU and others composited with references on the wiki which is why I like it: Industrial design - Wikipedia …the wiki definition really hasn’t changed in years. The Product Design Wiki definition, on the other hand, currently downplays ID and it legacy owed to those who helped define what it is today, IMO. AnitaD55, agreed, design is essentially problem solving.

Let’s illustrate:

Good Product Design:

Bad Product Design:

http://www.gillette.com/language/index.html I remember some years ago how we where laughing with the gilette with 3 blades: “Maybe someday they’ll make one with 5 blades”…hilarity ensued…and now 3 years later…I stopped laughing :imp:

and I know I’m comparing apples with oranges…

so are you bringing examples of what consider “good design” to market? Careful, it can get slipper up on top of the soapbox. As a friend once told me, you must be careful with pointing fingers because one may get pointed at you, so I would like you to show how you are implementing this thinking in work that is currently on the market or on its way that you have influenced.

Having shaved with a lot of razors, those new ones are actually much sharper and shave better. I use a razor, but I don’t use a water cone, so for me, the second is much more relevant to my needs.

You’re probably better off comparing two things that have something in common.

Water cone vs. Razor blade?

What do you think of this razor Atohms?
Picture 2.png