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About designers and missing the point

Published: at 12:00 AM

Everybody thinks to know what design is about, yet few people really understand the discipline.

Ask anyone what a designer does. Answers will vary but probably a common pattern will emerge: designers make things look pretty.

People identify design with embellished, expensive and sometimes eccentric products. Philippe Stark haven’t made us a great favour, that’s for sure.

But this is a simplistic view of the designer role. Aesthetics is only the result of a good design exercise, not the ultimate goal.

Design is the process where a need (of a new physical object, a digital service, etc.) is identified, rationalised and a solution is created to fulfil that need with the tools available at hand.

Everything that surround you has been designed. The browser you’re using to read this post, the chair you’re using, the music app’s interface you’re listening music from.

Compromises have to be taken, constrains affect your result and there are many variables to consider, being aesthetics only a small part of the equation. Then why this misunderstanding?

Looking at other occupations this problem doesn’t exist, or at least not to the same extent. Nobody thinks that the role of an architect is to create beautiful houses, but functional ones. Everyone can write, but being a writer is a praised occupation.

Maybe we are responsible of this confusion, as great designs are obvious and simple (simple doesn’t mean easy to create) the only thing left to appreciate is the final aesthetics.

The question then is: do we want people to appreciate the complexity of our work, or do we prefer them to keep thinking we simply create beautiful objects, smiling from the background acknowledging a good work has been done?