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What is design?

There are so many interpretations of the word "design" we couldn't begin to list them here. It's an illusive word, yet means something very solid and stable. It's not only a verb, ie: design something; but a noun, ie: nice design; and an adjective, ie: a hat design. Many sources indicate it is from the Latin word "designare" which means to "mark out or designate."

The UK Oxford English says
Noun: 1) a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of something before it is built or made.
Noun: 2) the art or action of producing such a plan or drawing.
Noun: 3) [the] underlying purpose or planning: the appearance of design in the universe.
Noun: 4) a decorative pattern.
Verb: 1) conceive and produce a design for.
Verb: 2) plan or intend for a purpose.

Of course we had to consult the Wikipedia for the word, and there you'll find a huge page full of references and various interpretations of the term. You can check it out for yourself -- in brief however it provides this definition, which pretty much covers it:

Design is used both as a noun and a verb. The term is often tied to the various applied arts and engineering (See design disciplines below). As a verb, "to design" refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component with intention. As a noun, "a design" is used for either the final (solution) plan (e.g. proposal, drawing, model, description) or the result of implementing that plan in the form of the final product of a design process.

The International Technology Education Association says design is an iterative decision-making process that produces plans by which resources are converted into products or systems that meet human needs and wants or solve problems.

Reference.com takes it to the extreme with more than 17 definitions, all of which directly relate to the process of organizing elements into a composite "whole." Of course, they even go so far as to then break it into a myriad of other related definitions -- as you would expect for a site driven by impression-based advertising. Some of their spin-offs include graphic design, interior design, graphic art, fashion design, tattoo design, interior design, web design, design games, designer, home design, product design and others. (link) Their definition of "Graphic Design" narrows in the reigns a bit to say
Noun: the art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, esp. to produce a specific effect.
Noun 2: The practice or profession of designing print or electronic forms of visual information, as for an advertisement, publication, or website. (which is pretty lame)
Noun 3: visual communication by a skillful combination of text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, books, etc.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary puts it much more elegantly -- capturing the essence of the term "graphic design": the art or profession of using design elements (as typography and images) to convey information or create an effect; also : a product of this art.

Marcus Fairs of Icon Magazine has written a long and academic essay on the meanings of design and the changes much of the "elite" seem to think have taken place. It's thought provoking and deserves a careful read by each of you who have taken the time to get this far in my piece. You can find his essay at: www.iconeye.com. Once you've digested it, please leave your viewpoint or opinion so we can add it to the list. Get started here.

Definition of the word DESIGN

What is design?

Many in the world of design seem to think "design" has changed. But has it? Really? I tend to agree with several of the definitions above -- most notably "The process of combining any number of variables and resources in a visually pleasing and functional finished composite in order to achieve a specific goal, or to solve a specific problem." Generally, isn't that really what design is -- no matter which segment of the general design field be it interior design, graphic design or industrial design?

Definition of the word DESIGN

The Visual Definition of Design

One of my colleagues passed along this link for our article this month and it blew me away. Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary that quickly looks up words to find their meanings. More importantly, it hooks them up with associations and other words or concepts that suggest fresh insight into the word. It magically produces a graphical diagram that spreads out like a spider's web to connect with other words in its realm of meaning. It's fantastic.

Definition of the word DESIGN

Enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. Click and drag the background to pan around and use the mouse wheel to zoom. Hover over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections. It's just one of the coolest things I've run across on the web.

Visuwords uses Princeton University's WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers. Combined with a visualization tool and user interface built from a combination of modern web technologies, Visuwords is available as a free resource to all patrons of the web.

Discover Visuwords: http://www.visuwords.com


... and thanks for reading!

Fred Showker
Fred Showker, Editor / Publisher of DTG Magazine


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