i’m a designer

We just moved into a new building we share with other design professionals, specifically landscape architects on the floor above us and architectural planners below. We have clients who are architects and engineers, who by definition are also designers. Of course we’re graphic designers. Then there’s fashion, product and interior designers. In addition, those who create structured services and activities and the integrated systems of computers and other forms of technology, also call themselves designers. With the vast array of products and services in the contemporary world, one might wonder if there really is a discipline of design shared by all who conceive and plan such things. As Richard Buchanan, a design theorist said, “The scope of design appears to be so great, and the range of styles and other qualities of individual products within even one category so diverse, that the prospect for identifying a common discipline seem dim.”

There is a wide range of beliefs about what design is, how it should be practiced, for what purpose, and what we accomplish through it. Every year for the past 20, I have taught the history of graphic design at the University of Utah. The subject matter of the class is essentially a history of graphic design objects, the careers of the important designers and the development of the technologies used. We don’t really discuss what design is. It’s similar for all design histories.

Unlike other scientific pursuits, designers don’t discover things like natural laws or a natural process (excepting occasional unintentional discoveries). Generally a designer invents something: an object, a new use, a possible application. Discovery and invention are essentially different. As Richard Buchanan says, “Designers deal with matters of choice, with things that may be different than they are… Any authority for the designer comes from recognized experience and practical wisdom in dealing with such matters, but the designer’s judgment and the results of his or her decisions are open to questioning by the general public, as are all matters of public policy and personal action, where things may be other than they are.”

The use of techniques and processes that systematize the discipline of design help to explain and understand how designers achieve their results. Such thinking is the basis behind the modern8 Perception Branding 5d process.We use it to explain and systemize how our design solutions come to be, in a discipline that isn’t easily defined.