What Is Design ?

In this particular lesson we basically discussed “What Is Design?” and broke it down into different sectors in order to encourage a wider understanding of what exactly design is but also using us the students in UAL as an example in a way where by what connects us all as students in an “arts university”.

  • Design Matter
  • Defining design
  • History of design
  1. Design Matter

What firstly came up was the problem with design – we discussed that design is commonly taken for granted or dismissed by those who may not have an insight on what design is etc. so therefore it can be seen as insignificant or have just little importance to most people. One of the reasons for this is the media gives a representation of design as something that is minor (so therefore not as important as most things) and is more based for fun and entertainment, which yes it can be so but at the same time is very useful. However the way adevertisers and media portray design as less important or not having serious value/importance – this all goes back to the confusion of not having a signicant understanding as to what design is.

2. Defining design

So what is design ? the word “design” is used all the time but is a complex word to define as we all have different understanding as to what design is. To prove this we went around the class and were asked to brainstorm the definition of design to us.

Below is what the class came up with.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 01.01.37.png

Design (Cambridge dictionary definition) – To make or draw plans for something, for example clothes or building.

Design as a verb – Indicates an action or process of creativity

Design as a noun – a drawing or sketch, plan or outline produced to show the look or function of a building or object before it is made or built.

From all this we can see design has split into various subdivisions and so can appropriated by anyone, which gives an understanding as to why one may confuse what design is.

3. History of Design

Then we explored the history of design, going through it in its chronological history (in terms of movement and style) but also as a process of layering in which new developments are added over time to what already exists.

  • Starting with the history of design “Industrial Revolution (1800>1900)” – which started with the arrival of steam-powered machines, small scale production – this is the beginning of what was recognised as the ‘modern world’ which also leads to birth of the “designer”.
  • Craft – design was not what is to us now, if something was needed in terms of furniture, clothes, day to day equipment etc. you would go to a master craftsman workshop to get it done. Bespoke/Made to order. 
  • Manufacture – introduction to mass production rather than hand made (more shoemaker factories and use of sewing machines).
  • Retail – the “industrial designer” was born, the birth of department stores and consumer culture as we know it today – in terms of fixed prices, lavish display, mass manufactured goods.
  • In 1837 the first Design School established at Somerset House The Strand- School of Design in Ornamental Art. 


Design Reform – The Arts and Crafts Movement

Introducing us to John Ruskin and William Morris who inspired – revival of traditional handicrafts, a return to a simpler way of life, an improvement in the design of ordinary domestic objects.

  • Design in the 20th century – the quality in workmanship being applied to a new generation of electrical consumer goods.

From what i stated in the beginning this lesson gave a wider knowledge to what design is in terms of actually breaking it down into sectors that encourage the different points of views of design as far as going back to the history of design and how us students that go to an arts university have some form of connection regardless of the course being studied.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s