Why do we Design?

I have just been set an essay by my lecturer, entitled ‘Why Do I Design?’

At first this seem quite an easy task, but the more I thought about it, the harder it seems to answer.

Whilst discussing this with fellow designers, a key theme emerged - passion. It seems that we cannot help but design, as if its part of who we are.

Personally design to me is a problem solving process to ill-defined problems. I enjoy the pursuit of a solution and find it almost as an addictive game.

So why do you design? What makes you pick up your pencil each day?

Mod. edit- just use everything after the “=” when posting YT. ( in this case “Z4PwHD7XKj0” )

I’m interested in a lot of things. I like extremely lax dress codes. I like drawing, researching, solving problems, being part of a team, advising clients, and getting tangible results. It’s the right mix of rigor, fun, and reward. And $$$.

What does it of me is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

As for your passion theory, it is no different for anyone else. A designer has no more passion for their job than a nurse has for their job or a lawyer has for theirs. My FIL loved everything about accounting. Still does it in his retirement. Go figure. The trick is finding where your passion lies.

+1 iab.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking designers are any more passionate than non-designers. Or more creative either.

+1 and I would add, that if you do, and can earn a living doing it, consider yourself one of a small group of very lucky people.

There is an old KRS-One song in which he states:
“Rap is something you do,
Hip Hop is something you LIVE”

Design is like that for me. It is not a job. There is no why. It is like asking why I breath. It is simply a part of who I am as a person. Understanding that sounds cliche, it is as close to the truth as I can get. There really isn’t anything I like to do better outside of a couple of obvious activities that you can’t do all day everyday anyway (not at my age anyway…)

Design has allowed me to see much of the world and has provided me interactions with many interesting and profound people. I design in order to explore the globe.

Why? It’s tricky to answer without sounding clichéd but it’s what I love. I have to design. I can’t not. I genuinely want to create products that make the world a better place. Since graduating and working in a consultancy role not all the products I’ve created could be classed as improvements to our world , but I’ve never lost sight of the reason why I do what I do.

Yes, we all love and breathe and live design, but I don’t know if that answers why we design?

For me, it’s because I see all the imperfections and problems in the world and I want to fix them and make life better.

[quote=“tarngerine”]Yes, we all love and breathe and live design, but I don’t know if that answers why we design?/quote]

It is… and no, not all designers live and breath design… you will encounter this as you branch out more in your career.

I think why people do what they do has a lot to do with their childhood and upbringing.

I liked, and I suppose, was good (relative to other 5-8 year olds) at drawing. I read about cars, designed cars (a previous boss of mine once said “You designed cars? You mean you drew cars?”, to which I replied “No, I put dimensions on them”). I made things from Lego, then I made things from Technic Lego. I made boats from wood, and put water-filled Cigar Tubes over a tealight on them to to make them steam propelled. I learnt to understand why things worked, and why they didn’t. At this age I had little, or probably no idea what “design”, in any sense, was.

At GCSE level (upper Secondary School, 15-16 years old), I included Art and Design and Realization among Maths, English, and Science. I then studied Art and Design and Further Education College. I won’t bore you with all the details, everything I chose to do just seemed the natural thing to do.

Why do I like being a Designer? I take a badly typed, miss-spelt brief from Marketing and give them back some nice drawings, then renders, then tooling samples, then finished product. How cool is that? People say “Wow” “Like it” etc etc. How cool is that!?

Haha. Exactly. In his face.

I design because I like to build things and pull them apart to see how they work. Drawing came later for me.

Also leaning on a bar and saying “Me?.. I’m a designer” in a Sean Connery voice.

It is… and no, not all designers live and breath design…

For me, I agree it definitely answers the question. It’s like asking ‘Why do you love your wife or husband?’ - You could answer with the reasons with what makes you love them such as they’re smart, funny, one s3xy ass mo-fo… etc… but sometimes you find youself when you just can’t not love something or someone. Like there’s something deeper there and it seems like the only way to explain it is by saying ‘I just can’t not’.

Perhaps I’m over romanticising this a little but not every designer feels that way, not every designer loves what they do and I’ve learnt that it shows in their work those who truly love design.

I think it’s safe to say that most of the people who participate on a board like this are in the “love design” camp. It’s hard to understand how people who do something that we love to do, don’t really like doing it.

I know people that love accounting, so who knows why people love what they love. What I don’t get is why people would continue to do something they don’t like doing.

I think it’s safe to say that most of the people who participate on a board like this are in the “love design” camp.

Without a doubt… I hope so anyway :slight_smile:

That’s an easy question. Life gets in the way.

My career as an F1 driver was cut tragically short by poor genetics. I have seen the standard of living of many sculptors who have more talent than me. While there is nothing wrong with that, I know it is not for me or my family. Sometimes sacrifice is more important than pursuing a dream. Sometimes obstacles are too hard to overcome.

I really love to design and fabricate furniture. I had an in at a place called 555 Fabrication. They design and fabricate custom interiors for restaurants and retail stores. Cool cool stuff. I didn’t pursue that lead (and it was a good one) because I didn’t want what I love doing to become work. Funny thing about passion. It’s hard to sustain and can burn you out in short time.

And then there’s the perception of the job versus the reality of the job. I had a very romantic notion of car design soon after my F1 career came to a collapse. Then I found out what really happens when designing cars. And while there are many who do it consider it a dream, I would rather stick a needle in my eye.

O.K. Maybe not a needle. But definately a case of pollen allergies.


I get that to some extent, but it only goes so far. We have to play with the genetic cards we’re dealt, both physically and mentally, and yes “the world needs ditch diggers too, Danny.” But still, if someone has the mental capacity to be working as a product designer, they likely had the capacity to do a vast number of things and choose this path.

As far as the disillusionment aspect goes, I can understand that, but it doesn’t kill my passion. I’m sure some folks have it worse than others, and I can see the auto industry likely being a soul crushing one.

I completely agree. But sometimes you play the hand you’re dealt. I was completely ignorant of ID when I was in high school and the start of college. So were my friends, family and high school counselors. I instictively took engineering and drawing classes, but it wasn’t ID. My venting about the stupidity of differential equations to a sculture professor got me an article about Art Center. My eyes were opened at 21.

I got that knowledge pretty early in life. Others don’t. I’d say there are about 1 million threads about a 30-something wanting to get into ID on this board. Hard to drop 30 years of life to pursue a dream when you have obligations today. Then there are those who never find their muse. As the line goes, you can’t always get what you want.

But I must thank you for the diversion. I need to put together a meeting agenda for a software meeting tomorrow. Back-end database writers and front-end user-interface designers. Like herding friggin’ cats while they mark their territory. This is not why we design.

I love to come up with new ideas. It’s also a way for me to change what I cannot change. And most importantly I love creating. I become the master and The new idea/concept becomes my baby :slight_smile:
I’m a programmer as well, and the feeling is a bit the same. Once you have spent sleepness night developing a computer program, the minute you complete it and everything is error free, you get a god like feeling.