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  • 09.03.09

How Should We Define “Design”?

When everything from solutions for social problems to smart business plans are getting heralded as design solutions, where do we draw the line?

How Should We Define “Design”?

I just came back from Denmark where my client, Better Place, received the INDEX Community design award for creating a complete electric vehicle services system. It was an amazing ceremony and the Danish organizers ran a flawless design gathering both in content and in spirit. I truly enjoyed it!

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Better Place

Over dinner, Chris Bangle, the former chief of BMW’s design group, expressed concern whether any bright idea for solving a social problem, is by definition “design.” At a different event, industrial and furniture designer Hella Jongerius suggested to me that a different object–itself an award winner–had ‘too little’ design. Or does ‘design’ imply something new or different than before?

kiva

Based on this, one may ask few interesting questions:

  1. Is there truly a “new design” phenomenon?
  2. Is any idea, whether it’s an initiative for social progress or a clever way to market movies, enough to be declared a work of design?
  3. Can a construct such as a “process,” “business plan” or a “system” be work of design?
  4. Lastly, are these metaphysical constructs always design or is there a threshold of beauty, a rigorous process, or another quality standard that must be met for something to be considered a design? In other words, is a ‘business plan’ always a form of “new design” or does it have to involve some level of good, “old fashioned” design to be considered more than an ordinary business plan? And, if the latter, what are the requisite elements that would distinguish one from the other?

What do you think? Should “design” be better defined?

[Images: INDEX winners Better Place and Kiva.org]

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Gadi Amit is the president of NewDealDesign LLC, a strategic design
studio in San Francisco. Founded in 2000, NDD has worked with such
clients as Better Place, Sling Media, Palm, Dell, Microsoft, and
Fujitsu, among others, and has won more than 70 design awards. Amit is
passionate about creating design that is both socially responsible and
generates real world success.

About the author

Gadi Amit is the president of NewDealDesign LLC, a strategic design studio in San Francisco. Founded in 2000, NDD has worked with such clients as Better Place, Sling Media, Palm, Dell, Microsoft, and Fujitsu, among others, and has won more than 70 design awards.

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