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What is design? - Daniel Mois - Web Developer

What is design?

Good design is always nice, great design is even better, but until you can reach that point you first need to understand design itself, what it means and why it matters so much.

Design in not about making things look nice

Working in the field of online media, you cannot ignore the need for design especially considering how much time we spend online and how many of our tasks are is some way web related.

In this article I will try to bring together what I have learned , discovered, understood about design and it's importance when doing any kind of work, but mainly in the field of web.

I have to say this again because this is exactly what I thought about design, before I started in this field and probably what many others thought as well when they heard or mentioned the word, design.

"Design is not about making things look nice!"

It's sad that I have to say this, but even after 2 years of studying multimedia design, I failed to understand what design is. Even though school did teach me design, I can't say I understood it. It was not to long ago that I began to realize what design is and its probably because of all the things that I've done after school that actually revealed what I like to call the essence of design, so I will do my best and translate this tacit knowledge that I have gathered into words.

What is design?

  • Design is a lot of things
  • Design is about finding solutions to problems
  • Design is about giving form to information
  • Design is about the experience created when using it
  • Design is about balance
  • Design is making it better
  • Design is making it faster
  • Design is making it smarter
  • Design is making it easier to use
  • Design is making it more efficient
  • Design is making it more simple
  • Design is making it use less
  • Design is making it using less
  • Design is making it do only what it has to
  • Design is making it do what you expect it to do
  • Design is making it feel natural

Design is thinking how to make it better and even though 'better' is quite a subjective word, it's a good thing because, being better involves a lot of things. You could probably include everything in the list above in this word and it would still make perfect sense.

It is how things are made, how things are working, how things are doing what they were designed to. Design is as much about the things as it is about the context in which these things are supposed to be used.

Now is probably time for some less general explanations to what is design.

Developing web applications has been my focus lately and the part I am most intrigued about is the interface. It's not only the way it looks, but more the way features are made accessible to the user and how information is being displayed. This is where design plays a huge role in making the application easy to use, clean, lean, creating a great user experience and all those terms that designers use to describe their work.

During development the application evolves and there is a tendency to include features over features, just because you can do it, just because it would be cool or nice to be able to do that. Continuing on this path will result in an over populated, crowded and bulky application at the end of the sprint, that simply overwhelms the user with all the possibilities.

So instead of doing everything that can be done, just focus only on what should be done, what is needed to be done at this stage of development. Because for an application to prove itself useful, it first has to provide the user with the features needed to accomplish his task, in the fastest and easiest way. It all about what the users needs to do and not about what the developers are capable of doing.

It's about what the user needs and not about what the developer is capable of doing.

As mentioned before, design is about finding solutions to problems and applications should do the same thing, providing the user with tools.

You can think about design in the same way as having a stone and a hammer as a tool and having to put a nail through a piece of wood. A stone can be used in many cases as an object to bash things with and the same goes for the hammer, but when it comes to a specific context, having to hammer nails, I think you would agree with me that the hammer is a much more efficient tool for this purpose. It's much more comfortable to hold in the hand, it has a flat heavy head, designed to take advantage of the physical forces involved in the process of hammering.

So next time you design an application or anything for that matter, think about what it has to accomplish and then figure out the most efficient, easiest, cleanest, comfortable, user friendly way of doing it. Start with the needs and find tools to fulfill them.

If making it nicer actually solves a problem, then yes, design can be about making things nice.

I don't claim to know what design is, I just try to understand more about it and how it influences the way we perceive things that we consider as being well designed or on the contrary. The line that I used about design not being about making things look nice, is just to illustrate the turning point where my view of what design is, changed.

2 comments

U Rokas 2012-05-03 01:17:12

This is one of the most shitty design articles i have ever read, i have overlooked one of the websites you made, and to say the least - it was shitty as fuck. If you want accesibility - it is more than fine to go for it, but leaving design in such shape

U Jimmy 2012-04-19 10:41:17

Yes, because when you design a website you can make all the changes that you want, you decide what type of website it is, and in simpler words you’re in control. Its the same with your life. You decide how you want your life to be, just like a websi