Design, most conventionally, is how something looks or works for specific users, audiences and occasions.

More broadly, design is conceived of as

  1. the methods involved in developing applications, instruments, prototypes.
  2. a way to communicate with others, a visual language, a semiotic process
  3. a field of study

Key Words: Composition; Design Thinking; Design Work;


“Design is a fun word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” 
-Steve Jobs

What is Design?

Design is a complex, somewhat opaque, concept that means different things to different users and discourse communities.

  • For engineers, the term design may be used synonymously with sketch, draft, or create or with the act of making a plan for the manufacture of a product.
  • For graphic artists, design may refer to the act of writing copy, editing photographs, and designing data visualizations by writing sequel server queries.
  • For production designers on a movie set, design may be the props, costumes, graphics used for a particular scene in a movie.
  • For writers, design is reflected in the writer’s choice of

Design is a way of thinking, a way of solving problems, and a way of developing solutions for particular users/audiences in particular rhetorical situations,

Design is a Method

Design is a method that people use to develop applications, instruments, prototypes. Design is a way of thinking, a way of investigating solutions to problems.

Design is a Signifier of Identity

As individuals and communities engage in ongoing scholarly conversations about topics, they develop a design that is unique to their purpose and identify. Thus, over time, some individuals, groups, organizations, countries (and so on) are known by their designs.

Designs can be expressed in a variety of mediums, a variety of canvasses:

  • the painter works with oils on cloth canvas
  • the videographer works with Adobe Creative Cloud
  • the architect, engineer, and construction professional works with AutoCAD

Design can be a way of classifying a material item. For instance, you might say a building has a Victorian style or an Islamic style. Or you could say someone typically dresses in a business casual style, a street style, or dress techie chic.

[ Semiotics: Sign, Signifier, Signified ]

Design is a Social Construct

Design is a social, historical construct rooted in Art, Culture & Technology. Different cultures and different time periods have distinct conceptions of aesthetics, the elements of design, data visualization, information architecture, and information design.

Design is a Academic Field of Study

Over time user communities cluster around designs, interpretations of designs, and reoccuring rhetorical situations (see Genre). Professional, Business, and academic communities form around design methods, design thinking, and design styles.

Rooted in Art, Culture & Technology

Who are Designers?
Designers work in a variety of roles in the design field, including graphic design, user-experience design, advertising, fashion