What is design

Design is not about making things pretty just for the sake of it

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction. Design has different connotations in different fields. In some cases, the direct construction of an object , engineering, management, coding, and graphic design

Designing often necessitates considering the aesthetic, functional, economic, and sociopolitical dimensions of both the design object and design process. It may involve considerable research, thought, modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design.

Meanwhile, diverse kinds of objects may be designed, including clothing, graphical user interfaces, products, skyscrapers, corporate identities, business processes, and even methods or processes of designing.

Great design is invisible

It is achieved when the user doesn’t even notice its presence. This principle is particularly true in interaction design. Navigating a user interface should feel natural and unhindered. The user should be able to understand its rules and the meaning of its elements almost immediately. The user is guided by an invisible hand made of colors, shapes, contrast, repetitions.

Design disciplines

Let's get it out of the way right now there are too many design disciplines to cite them all and there's no-one who is just a "designer" although the title has often be co-opted by visual designer; most phase of "design" do not in fact involve creating pretty images.

  • Applied arts
  • Architecture
  • Automotive design
  • Biological design
  • Communication design
  • Configuration design
  • Design management
  • Engineering design
  • Experience design
  • Fashion design
  • Game design
  • Graphic design
  • Information architecture
  • Information design
  • Industrial design
  • Instructional design
  • Interaction design
  • Interior design
  • Landscape architecture
  • Lighting design
  • Modular design
  • Motion graphic design
  • Organization design
  • Product design
  • Process design
  • Service design
  • Social design
  • Software design
  • Sound design
  • Spatial design
  • Strategic design
  • Systems architecture
  • Systems design
  • Systems modeling
  • Urban design
  • User experience design
  • Visual design
  • Web design

I'll discuss below a few of the most important types of "design" that that are useful for creating digital services and how they interact together.

Service Design

Service design was first introduced as a design discipline at the Köln International School of Design in 1991. As a new field, the definition of service design is evolving in academia.  But in practice, service design is:

The activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers.

This is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider, outlines five key principles to keep in mind when re-thinking a service:

  1. User-Centered: People are at the center of the service design.
  2. Co-Creative: Service design should involve other people, especially those who are part of a system or a service
  3. Sequencing: Services should be visualized by sequences, or key moments in a customer’s journey.
  4. Evidencing: Customers need to be aware of elements of a service.  Evidencing creates loyalty and helps customers understand the entire service experience.
  5. Holistic: A holistic design takes into account the entire experience of a service.  Context matters.

Product Design

Designing a new product goes through an analytical process and relies on a problem-solving approach to improve the quality of life of the end user and his or her interaction with the environment. It is about problem-solving, about visualizing the needs of the user and bringing a solution.

Product designers also work with other professionals such as engineers and marketers. While not in charge of designing the purely mechanical and technological aspects of the product, they are however concerned with usability.

Product design has many fields of application: medical devices, tableware, jewelry, sports and leisure, food preservation appliances, furniture, etc.

It takes into consideration also the production cost, the manufacturing processes and the regulations.

User Experience Design a.k.a UX Design

“User Experience Design” is often used interchangeably with terms such as “User Interface Design” and “Usability”. However, while Usability and User Interface Design are important aspects of UX Design, they are subsets of it – UX design covers a vast array of other areas, too. A UX designer is concerned with the entire process of acquiring and integrating a product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function. It is a story that begins before the device is even in the user’s hands.

“No product is an island. A product is more than the product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service – from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly.”

— Don Norman, inventor of the term “User Experience”

Products that provide great user experience (e.g., the iPhone) are thus designed with not only the product’s consumption or use in mind but also the entire process of acquiring, owning, and even troubleshooting it. Similarly, UX designers don’t just focus on creating products that are usable; we concentrate on other aspects of the user experience, such as pleasure, efficiency and fun, too. Consequently, there is no single definition of a good user experience. Instead, a good user experience is one that meets a particular user’s needs in the specific context where he or she uses the product.

UX Designers consider the Why, What and How of Product Use

A UX designer will consider the Why, What and How of product use. The Why involves the users’ motivations for adopting a product, whether they relate to a task they wish to perform with it, or to values and views associated with the ownership and use of the product. The What addresses the things people can do with a product—its functionality. Finally, the How relates to the design of functionality in an accessible and aesthetically pleasant way. UX designers start with the Why before determining the What and then, finally, the How in order to create products that users can form meaningful experiences with. In software designs, designers must ensure the product’s “substance” comes through an existing device and offers a seamless, fluid experience.

Interaction design

Interaction Design is about crafting software interfaces centered on people’s behaviors to best fulfill their needs. It's about deliberately organizing how a user interacts with a system.

Overall, Interaction Design relies on several core principles, which include:

  • Goal-oriented design : satisfying the specific needs and desires of the end-user is set as the highest priority.
  • Usability: Your application should be easy to use. The user should be able to grasp its mechanisms almost instantly.
  • Learnability: An interaction designer should use patterns, shapes and colors that the user is already familiar with.

Typically, Interaction Design principles mainly apply to websites, web, tablet and smart phone applications. However these design principles and rules are now applied to a wide range of diverse applications and software.

Visual design

Visual design aims to shape and improve the user experience through considering the effects of illustrations, photography, typography, space, layouts, and color on the usability of products and on their aesthetic appeal. To help designers achieve this, visual design considers a variety of principles, including unity, Gestalt properties, space, hierarchy, balance, contrast, scale, dominance, and similarity.

Visual design as a field has grown out of both user interface (UI) design and graphic design. As such, it focuses on the aesthetics of a product and its related materials by strategically implementing images, colors, fonts, and other elements. A successful visual design ensures that content remains central to the page or function, and enhances it by engaging users and helping to build their trust and interest in the product (and, consequently, the brand). The realm of visual design houses a wealth of issues for designers to bear in mind, ranging from the differences in cultural interpretations of the color red, to proper use of whitespace, to universal taboos such as the setting of red elements against blue backgrounds. It draws on a rich and lengthy history of the production of aesthetically pleasing, successful work.

Systems design

System design is the engineering process that support the creation of technical elements. In simple terms it is the work that defines how an application should be build, with which technology and how it should be architectured to support the objectives.

While designing systems, there are three primary concerns that should be addressed — reliability, scalability, maintainability al of which have direct impact on the time and cost of building the systems.

For example creating a website that can handle millions of user per month does not entail the same level of scalability than a personal blog and an emergency system, like the 112 or 911 phone service, for the highest degrees of availability is more time consuming and expensive than setting up the call center of a pizzeria.

The capabilities and limitation of a system (and quite often the cost) is an important information for service and UX designers which can in turn take them into account when creating services and user experiences.

Design Methods

Human centered design

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

Human-centered design consists of three phases. In the Inspiration Phase you’ll learn directly from the people you’re designing for as you immerse yourself in their lives and come to deeply understand their needs. In the Ideation Phase you’ll make sense of what you learned, identify opportunities for design, and prototype possible solutions. And in the Implementation Phase you’ll bring your solution to life, and eventually, to market. And you’ll know that your solution will be a success because you’ve kept the very people you’re looking to serve at the heart of the process.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At the same time, Design Thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods.

Design Thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services. It helps us observe and develop empathy with the target user. Design Thinking helps us in the process of questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications. Design Thinking is extremely useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. Design Thinking also involves ongoing experimentation: sketching, prototyping, testing, and trying out concepts and ideas.

The five phases of Design Thinking, according to d.school, are as follows:

  • Empathise – with your users
  • Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
  • Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
  • Prototype – to start creating solutions
  • Test – solutions