Why Design Matters

October 4, 2009

“Design Matters because it is the essence of how we move our bodies and souls throughout our lives; the invisible hand that guides us through our day; predicts whether we move effortlessly through our process, or are encumbered by the obstacles.  It is part of us when we live, eat, sleep, work, laugh and cry.  It is the unspoken intimate sparkle, smile and gift of our shared existence; with the beauty of a system, building, artwork, or of nature’s undisturbed serenity.”

Written by Deidre Johnston in response to a query I posted seeking help for an article I plan to write on this subject.

This poem answers the question so beautifully that I post it here (with Deidre’s permission) as a statement by itself.

6 Responses to “Why Design Matters”

  1. Clive Flory said

    Design like engineering matters most when we use something to accomplish something. When we use the artifact for a purpose we witness its suitability in accomplishing a task and during such moments of use we discover the poverty or wealth of the artifacts usefulness. It is during these moments that humans enter the realm of design as they critique and become engaged and motivated to improve the artifact .

    Humans get things done by doing and doing requires techniques and tools so having fit for purpose techniques and tools is important .

    One way of answering the question is to ask what if we applied no “design” during problem solving how would that effect us. What if we applied no engineering or scientific methods how would that effect us. Since we experience good design, engineering and science we experience the impact when its absent. But when applied well we experience its considerable positive impact.

  2. Rob Curedale said


    Humans believe we have dominion over the animal kingdom but without design we are just another ape. Design is the application of our intelligence, the evidence that intelligence is useful.

  3. skaupert said

    Design matters because it is the most profound way by which we take responsibility for our existence.

  4. Clive Flory said

    The notion of Design is as foreign as the notion of Engineering or Science to those that do not practice it. Even among practitioners there is constant debate as to what IS design , engineering or science yet all of these endeavors emanate from normal human activity. Activities that are studied , codified and eventually formed into a discipline

    The Rembrandts, Goyas and Picassos of the world never wasted a lot of time discussing or thinking about the issue “does painting matter” . It mattered to them and that was the end of it.

    A painting can be liked or disliked.
    A piece of music or a book can be liked or disliked.
    A design can be liked or disliked.

    With painting, music or a book my dislikes or likes don’t “matter” when it comes to day to day survival. But when using artifacts it does.
    The solution for a Lamp to enable coal miners to go deep into the bowels of a coal tunnel matters to the coal miner and his family. The solution for every facet of a space ship matters to those whose life or job depends on its operational safety and reliability.

    In all of these we see Engineering and Design.
    We often see the confusion between Function design and Aesthetic Design. We experience the function but SEE the Aesthetics. We also often see function design confused with engineering.

    Some people are more “tolerant” of bad design than others. The ones less tolerant are usually motivated to “find an alternative”.
    With visual design you will get as many different opinions as there are individuals but with Functional design you tend to get a larger clustering around a few slightly differentiated opinions

    Once you “see” the properties of design you then get the ah ha moment
    If you have ever tried your hand at composing music you will recognize that it takes a good 5 to 7 years before you really “see” what it means to compose and learn how to effectively use the palette of musical sounds.

    And so it is with Design ….

  5. I like to point out that design matters because it is a way to imagine a better future and figure out how to achieve it.

    We are working to explain why design matters in K-12 schools as well so I appreciate all the ideas everyone has provided.


  6. Arthur Fink said

    Start by looking at “design” — our understanding of that word (or lack of understanding). For too many people — at least in the US, design is about adding pleasant visual affect to things or concepts already in place. What a thin notion!

    I think of design as a vibrant process of finding integrated solutions to problems — in which visual, function, spiritual, affective elements all might come together. To design a meal, or a bathroom vanity, or a bookshelf, or a poem is to give it form in context.

    So design is about conscious creation. Of course, that matters!

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