Why Should Anyone Care About Design? And What The Heck Is Co.Design?

A mission statement, of sorts.

People I talk to are always surprised when I tell them that Co.Design isn’t even two years old. To be exact, we launched in July 2010. Since then, it’s been thrilling. At first, it seemed like we were gambling on an audience that might not exist. By now, all of you are gracing us with 6.5 million page views a month (and growing). It’s proof that people “get” what we’re trying to do. But here’s the funny thing: We’ve never written a very definitive mission statement.


Recently, I had the occasion to do just that for a presentation to my colleagues about what Co.Design is and what it is not. I thought I’d share it, because in many ways I think that you feel very much the same way about design as we do. Even if you’re not a designer (and I am not a designer), design is something we all engage with every day. It’s a way of looking at the world that isn’t satisfied with the status quo, and isn’t afraid to offer up a new and better ideal. That instinct is something that everyone can learn from, and apply to what they do, whatever it is. Steve Jobs, as usual, put it better than anyone else. As Walter Isaacson writes in his Jobs bio:

That was the fundamental principle Jobs and [Jony] Ive shared. Design was not just about what a product looked like on the surface. It had to reflect the product’s essence. “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer,” Jobs told Fortune shortly after retaking the reins at Apple. ‘But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers.’

Along those lines, what we try to do is keep you informed about the ideas behind today’s best designs. We’re not a fashion blog. We’re not a style blog. We’re not concerned with merely the surface of things. (Though we’ve always believed that the people who get the core of something right won’t settle for a less-than-perfect wrapping.) It is our sincerest hope that the design ideas we cover every day–and the questions they leave unanswered–will make you hungry. That is: Hungry to explore how things could be done better, and hungry to find alternative solutions to problems big, small, familiar, and weird.

This really is the essence of innovation. As I say in the presentation above, design is innovation you can hold. It solves problems that we see every day. And it anticipates how we’ll live tomorrow.

In any event, I hope that the slides above will help all of you communicate to your own audiences about design’s importance, or at least start a conversation about it. And, to be totally honest, I wanted to share them as a way of marking what’s been a really, really fun ride. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned: We’ve got so much more that we’d like to share with you.

[Image: bekulnis/Shutterstock]


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.