DXB101 | What is Design?

What is design? From architect, Charles Eames, we have heard that design is “a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose”, (J. Hoey, 2016). Steve Jobs further told us, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works,” (C. Cortnett, 2010). According to Paul Rand, graphic designer and art director, “Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated,” (J. Connolly, 2016). While there is no single answer, it is clear that this process can be understood in a variety of different ways, depending on the person defining it.

This week’s tutorial revolved around this ever-changing definition, who we are as a designer and the skills involved in the design process. In group discussion, when termed simply, design was labelled as originality, innovation and, my personal definition, a form of self-expression. In more depth, it was agreed as a collaborative class that “a creative process spanning from mental to physical concepts, with an intent to develop a refined product, image or idea” was the most effective explanation. In relation to our study of branding and logos, this description is the most accurate, as design is generally associated with having a purpose or objective – it is a means of persuading an audience or visually representing a message. Although we came to the conclusion that a design does not always need to be a solution to a problem (it can simply be a sketch in the back of a book or a creative thought), in most cases, the design process is undergone with the aim to result in a finalised and perfected visual. Through several activities within the studio session, we were encouraged to consider our own personal understanding of the creative process and what that meant for us as a designer.


To be successful in this industry, designers should have a variety of skills ranging from confidence, creativity, organisation and drawing abilities to visualisation, communication, critical thinking, researching and computer skills. Designers should have the ability to accept constructive criticism and learn from failure. As an IVD student, working on my personal abilities and developing my own techniques are definitely priorities for the next four years of study. Several of the class activities focused on pinpointing these strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we hope to improve on in the coming sessions. While I am a fairly strong drawer, visual communicator and organiser, and am always seeing the world through a creative eye, I often struggle to problem solve and innovate original ideas within a limited time frame. From discussions in a type of ‘speed dating’ activity, I resolved a personal goal of developing proficiency when using Illustrator and Photoshop, through consistent practice and online tutorials, broadening my interactive and web design abilities, and quickening  the time I take to critically and originally produce an effective image, without my impatience impacting the quality of the final product.

While teamwork and group collaboration were a central part of the studio time, we were also given an independent task to design a tattoo that represented ourselves and our artistic ‘style’.  When constructing the tattoo, I tried combining meaningful concepts with expressive or visually aesthetic sketches that inspired me. At the same time, I wanted to incorporate the most recognisable traits of mine – my love for simplicity, my adoration for adventure and the natural world, and my consistent search to find peace within myself, away from the stresses of life. Evident in the image above, each initial idea included a sense of childhood, delicacy and minimalism whilst being empowering and symbolic. My
final tattoo design (to the right) – an adapted work of Henri Matisse’s – represents all of these traits and gives off a feeling of relaxation and nirvana.

As homework, we were asked to design a sandwich that also portrayed us both as people and as designers. Adapting the concepts within my tattoo into the layers, tastes, smells, textures, visuals, size and shape of a lunch option, I took the approach of a dessert sandwich, almost in the form of an inside-out s’more. The first step I took approaching this task was to consider individual foods and structures of a sandwich that would represent features of my own design style. Of course, its overall appearance would need an organised structure, symmetry amongst the layers and an evident sense of perfectionism. As I’ve often found myself to be softer on the outside and willing to openly share the emotions within my crunchy and complex core, I knew the textures of my sandwich would have to depict this. My love for all things sweet also inspired the combination of marshmallows, waffles and choc-chip cookies within the design. While I generally wouldn’t go for a sandwich covered in leaves, I allowed my abstract style and organic personality to show through the delicate vines and flowers encompassing the dessert.

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In summary:

Berries – I love to add a little extra something to everything I do, just like the berries are a small feature on the top of the sandwich but add something new and refreshing

Marshmallows – my soft, honest, flexible nature that surrounds everything else and gives me balance/structure

Waffles/Choc Chip Cookie – my complex core and desire to always see a deeper meaning past the outside, the chocolate chips are all of the little moments of my past that work together to make me who I am inside

Flowers & Vines – my love for nature, decoration and organic/floral shapes

From these activities, I discovered that by approaching each task with a layout of steps – understanding what I was trying to create, researching, planning and developing ways to incorporate important aspects/requirements – there is much greater chance of producing an effective design than by attempting to construct the final product in one go. Looking back on all of the definitions discussed, I would say that the final class answer was, in fact, the most accurate in accordance with my recent design experience. Design IS a creative process spanning from mental and physical concepts, with an intent to create a refined product, image or idea.


[Source: ericameade.com]

Reference List

Catriona Cornett. (20 January , 2010). Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Accessed March 15, 2016, from inspireUX: http://www.inspireux.com/2010/01/20/design-is-not-just-what-it-looks-like-and-feels-like-design-is-how-it-works/

Erica Meade. (2012). My Design Process. Accessed March 22, 2016, from Erica Meade: http://ericameade.com/whatido.html

Jennifer Hoey. (2016). Charles Eames Quote. Accessed March 15, 2016, from Jennifer Hoey Interior Design: http://www.jenniferhoey.com/charles-eames-quote/

Jim Connolly. (2016). Paul Rand: Defining design. Accessed March 15, 2016, from Creative Thinking Hub: http://www.creativethinkinghub.com/paul-rand-defining-design/



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