Let’s clear one thing up right off the bat. Design is not just making things pretty.
There’s no doubt that aesthetics place a huge part in the design of anything from
2D to 3D. You wouldn’t want to buy a phone, watch, car or much of anything if
it were not visually pleasing. But once you get beyond the surface of an object or design
(much like when you meet a person) what does the design really offer you? Is it
something of value? Does it effectively communicate or operate? Is your experience
with it a positive one? There are a few things you might need to know about what
designers do to better understand the value of design in your life.
Design is about creating relationships as much as it is about solving problems.
How do we attract consumers to our phones at retail? How do we convince consumers
that vehicle we want them to buy is designed to make their lives better? How do we use
design to make common tasks in our daily lives more enjoyable or convenient?
Designers want to create only things that are useful and stimulating, so we do
research and explore up front to figure out how to create a relationship between the
user and the product. Graphic designers explore this in 2D to communicate brand identity,
creating a relationship between the brand and the consumer through use of logos,
imagery and copy. Industrial designers communicate this through form and function,
creating a relationship between products and consumers by designing an effective and
elegant solution to a need and making the product integral to the consumers’ daily lives.
Interior Designers and Architects create a relationship between spaces/structures and
people by studying the intended use of the space to come up with an effective way of
structuring and styling the environment of the space.
Great Design only happens when the problem or need is fully researched.
In all cases, designers do their homework. They study the consumer, user, space, history
of the product, whatever they need to study to truly understand the problem and the
parameters of the project before attempting to create a solution. Research can take many forms
and vary by project and discipline, but research forms the foundation from which the
designer will work.
The designer considers the parameters and goals of the client and project. Open discussion with
the client around needs and goals is essential, as is an understanding of the companies’ marketing
and branding initiatives. Research of consumer behavior and needs is then employed to explore
the possible needs not currently being addressed, to guide the project so that the solution is actually
benefiting the user or consumer. Imagery and materials are researched in order to explore
the look and feel of a product or space and considerations for construction or manufacture are
considered with each material decision. There is frequently a great deal of up front research and
exploration that occurs with each design project. Sometimes this has to happen very quickly, but
a project will rarely result in successful design without this step.
Designers test their solutions and welcome feedback
Once a designer comes up with a possible solution or solutions for a project, they are tested.
This may involve mock-ups or prototypes of a product/fixture/piece of furniture/space, internal
feedback on a solution, client feedback on a solution or studies of consumers interacting
with a product prototype. In any of these scenarios, the designer is looking for the positives
and negatives of the solution so that it can be optimized before production or scrapped for
another concept. This step is invaluable for confirming the legitimacy of a design solution.
Designers tell a story about a product, company or experience
Designers tell a story with their product, logos, spaces, fixtures. The success with which they
tell this story is frequently measured by sales and/or elevation of a brand in the minds of
consumers. Apple does this with their product experience and simplicity of message. Initially
the iPod sold because of the simple message that it fits thousands of songs in your pocket. This
simple statement doesn’t tell you the technical aspects of the product or how it does this, but
it does tell you about the experience. Good experiences are the most important thing to all of
us, I’m guessing. Whether it’s with relationships, products, moving through a store or home,
dealing with customer service representatives. We all want to enjoy our lives.
Designers focus on how to create an optimal experience in all types of design work in the hopes
that our end result, whether it’s an oven, retail store or car, will impact others positively. We
know that a positive experience will effect sales, strengthen a brand and ultimately make
life more enjoyable for everyone. The more memorable or relevant the story, the more likely
we are to connect to consumers. This goes back to creating relationships as well.
There’s nothing wrong with making things pretty. Like I said in the beginning, designers do
way more than just make things pretty. Hopefully, I’ve helped to explain a bit more about these
non-aesthetic things that designers do. But ultimately, aesthetics play a big part in a successful
product, logo or space. Part of the research a designer conducts involves finding out more about
the desired look a client wants to go for or the type of products and aesthetics that the target
consumer likes. Additionally, many products and spaces lend themselves to certain forms and aesthetics.
Careful consideration of the look and feel of a designed element or space is just as important
as it’s utility because it is a part of the user experience. So, yes, we do make things look good,
but we do this because we research, inform our design and execute based upon this information.