Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of
an object, system or measurable human interaction (as in architectural
blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit
diagrams, and sewing patterns).
Design has different connotations
in different fields (see design disciplines below). In some cases, the
direct construction of an object (as in pottery, engineering,
management, coding, and graphic design) is also considered to use
Designing often necessitates considering the aesthetic, functional,
economic, and sociopolitical dimensions of both the design object and
design process. It may involve considerable research, thought,
modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design. Meanwhile, diverse
kinds of objects may be designed, including clothing, graphical user
interfaces, products, skyscrapers, corporate identities, business
processes, and even methods or processes of designing.
Thus "design" may be a substantive referring to a categorical
abstraction of a created thing or things (the design of something), or
a verb for the process of creation as is made clear by grammatical
Design as a process
2.1 The rational model
2.1.1 Example sequence of stages
2.1.2 Criticism of the rational model
2.2 The action-centric model
2.2.1 Descriptions of design activities
4 Philosophies and studies of design
4.1 Philosophies for guiding design
4.2 Approaches to design
4.3 Methods of designing
Design and art
Design and engineering
Design and production
5.4 Process design
6 See also
More formally design has been defined as follows:
(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended
to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of
primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to
constraints; (verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment
(where the designer operates)
Another definition for design is "a roadmap or a strategic approach
for someone to achieve a unique expectation. It defines the
specifications, plans, parameters, costs, activities, processes and
how and what to do within legal, political, social, environmental,
safety and economic constraints in achieving that objective."
Here, a "specification" can be manifested as either a plan or a
finished product, and "primitives" are the elements from which the
design object is composed.
With such a broad denotation, there is no universal language or
unifying institution for designers of all disciplines. This allows for
many differing philosophies and approaches toward the subject (see
§ Philosophies and studies of design, below).
The person designing is called a designer, which is also a term used
for people who work professionally in one of the various design areas
usually specifying which area is being dealt with (such as a textile
designer, fashion designer, product designer, concept designer, web
designer or interior designer). A designer's sequence of activities is
called a design process while the scientific study of design is called
Another definition of design is planning to manufacture an object,
system, component or structure. Thus the word "design" can be used as
a noun or a verb. In a broader sense, design is an applied art and
engineering that integrates with technology.
While the definition of design is fairly broad, design has a myriad of
specifications that professionals utilize in their fields.
Design as a process
Substantial disagreement exists concerning how designers in many
fields, whether amateur or professional, alone or in teams, produce
designs. Kees Dorst and Judith Dijkhuis, both designers themselves,
argued that "there are many ways of describing design processes" and
discussed "two basic and fundamentally different ways", both of
which have several names. The prevailing view has been called "the
rational model", "technical problem solving" and "the
reason-centric perspective". The alternative view has been called
"reflection-in-action", "evolutionary design",
"co-evolution", and "the action-centric perspective".
The rational model
The rational model was independently developed by Herbert A.
Simon, an American scientist, and Gerhard Pahl and Wolfgang Beitz,
two German engineering design theorists. It posits that:
designers attempt to optimize a design candidate for known constraints
the design process is plan-driven,
the design process is understood in terms of a discrete sequence of
The rational model is based on a rationalist philosophy and
underlies the waterfall model, systems development life cycle,
and much of the engineering design literature. According to the
rationalist philosophy, design is informed by research and knowledge
in a predictable and controlled manner.
Example sequence of stages
Typical stages consistent with the rational model include the
Design brief or Parti pris – an early (often the beginning)
statement of design goals
Analysis – analysis of current design goals
Research – investigating similar design solutions in the field
or related topics
Specification – specifying requirements of a design solution
for a product (product design specification) or service.
Problem solving – conceptualizing and documenting design
Presentation – presenting design solutions
Design during production
Development – continuation and improvement of a designed
Testing – in situ testing of a designed solution
Post-production design feedback for future designs
Implementation – introducing the designed solution into the
Evaluation and conclusion – summary of process and results,
including constructive criticism and suggestions for future
Redesign – any or all stages in the design process repeated
(with corrections made) at any time before, during, or after
Each stage has many associated best practices.
Criticism of the rational model
The rational model has been widely criticized on two primary grounds:
Designers do not work this way – extensive empirical evidence
has demonstrated that designers do not act as the rational model
Unrealistic assumptions – goals are often unknown when a design
project begins, and the requirements and constraints continue to
The action-centric model
The action-centric perspective is a label given to a collection of
interrelated concepts, which are antithetical to the rational
model. It posits that:
designers use creativity and emotion to generate design candidates,
the design process is improvised,
no universal sequence of stages is apparent – analysis, design
and implementation are contemporary and inextricably linked
The action-centric perspective is based on an empiricist philosophy
and broadly consistent with the agile approach and amethodical
development. Substantial empirical evidence supports the veracity
of this perspective in describing the actions of real designers.
Like the rational model, the action-centric model sees design as
informed by research and knowledge. However, research and knowledge
are brought into the design process through the judgment and common
sense of designers – by designers "thinking on their
feet" – more than through the predictable and controlled
process stipulated by the rational model.
Descriptions of design activities
At least two views of design activity are consistent with the
action-centric perspective. Both involve three basic activities.
In the reflection-in-action paradigm, designers alternate between
"framing", "making moves", and "evaluating moves". "Framing" refers to
conceptualizing the problem, i.e., defining goals and objectives. A
"move" is a tentative design decision. The evaluation process may lead
to further moves in the design.
In the sensemaking–coevolution–implementation framework, designers
alternate between its three titular activities. Sensemaking includes
both framing and evaluating moves.
Implementation is the process of
constructing the design object. Coevolution is "the process where the
design agent simultaneously refines its mental picture of the design
object based on its mental picture of the context, and vice
The concept of the design cycle is understood as a circular time
structure, which may start with the thinking of an idea, then
expressing it by the use of visual or verbal means of communication
(design tools), the sharing and perceiving of the expressed idea, and
finally starting a new cycle with the critical rethinking of the
perceived idea. Anderson points out that this concept emphasizes the
importance of the means of expression, which at the same time are
means of perception of any design ideas.
Motion graphic design
User experience design
Philosophies and studies of design
There are countless philosophies for guiding design as design values
and its accompanying aspects within modern design vary, both between
different schools of thought[which?] and among practicing
Design philosophies are usually for determining design
goals. A design goal may range from solving the least significant
individual problem of the smallest element, to the most holistic
influential utopian goals.
Design goals are usually for guiding
design. However, conflicts over immediate and minor goals may lead to
questioning the purpose of design, perhaps to set better long term or
ultimate goals. John Heskett, a 20th-century British writer on design
claimed, "Design, stripped to its essence, can be defined as the human
nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in
nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives."
Philosophies for guiding design
Design philosophies are fundamental guiding principles that dictate
how a designer approaches his/her practice. Reflections on material
culture and environmental concerns (sustainable design) can guide a
design philosophy. One example is the First Things First manifesto
which was launched within the graphic design community and states "We
propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more useful, lasting and
democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from
product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new
kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must expand.
Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by other
perspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages and
resources of design."
In The Sciences of the Artificial by polymath Herbert A. Simon, the
author asserts design to be a meta-discipline of all professions.
"Engineers are not the only professional designers. Everyone designs
who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations
into preferred ones. The intellectual activity that produces material
artifacts is no different fundamentally from the one that prescribes
remedies for a sick patient or the one that devises a new sales plan
for a company or a social welfare policy for a state. Design, so
construed, is the core of all professional training; it is the
principal mark that distinguishes the professions from the sciences.
Schools of engineering, as well as schools of architecture, business,
education, law, and medicine, are all centrally concerned with the
process of design."
Approaches to design
A design approach is a general philosophy that may or may not include
a guide for specific methods. Some are to guide the overall goal of
the design. Other approaches are to guide the tendencies of the
designer. A combination of approaches may be used if they don't
Some popular approaches include:
Sociotechnical system design, a philosophy and tools for participative
designing of work arrangements and supporting processes - for
organizational purpose, quality, safety, economics and customer
requirements in core work processes, the quality of peoples experience
at work and the needs of society
KISS principle, (Keep it Simple Stupid), which strives to eliminate
There is more than one way to do it (TIMTOWTDI), a philosophy to allow
multiple methods of doing the same thing.
Use-centered design, which focuses on the goals and tasks associated
with the use of the artifact, rather than focusing on the end user.
User-centered design, which focuses on the needs, wants, and
limitations of the end user of the designed artifact.
Critical design uses designed artifacts as an embodied critique or
commentary on existing values, morals, and practices in a culture.
Service design designing or organizing the experience around a product
and the service associated with a product's use.
Transgenerational design, the practice of making products and
environments compatible with those physical and sensory impairments
associated with human aging and which limit major activities of daily
Speculative design, the speculative design process doesn't necessarily
define a specific problem to solve, but establishes a provocative
starting point from which a design process emerges. The result is an
evolution of fluctuating iteration and reflection using designed
objects to provoke questions and stimulate discussion in academic and
Methods of designing
Design methods is a broad area that focuses on:
Exploring possibilities and constraints by focusing critical thinking
skills to research and define problem spaces for existing products or
services—or the creation of new categories (see also Brainstorming)
Redefining the specifications of design solutions which can lead to
better guidelines for traditional design activities (graphic,
industrial, architectural, etc.);
Managing the process of exploring, defining, creating artifacts
continually over time
Prototyping possible scenarios, or solutions that incrementally or
significantly improve the inherited situation
Trendspotting; understanding the trend process.
The word "design" is often considered ambiguous, as it is applied in
The new terminal at
Barajas airport in Madrid, Spain
Design and art
Today, the term design is widely associated with the applied arts as
Raymond Loewy and teachings at the
Bauhaus and Ulm School
Design (HfG Ulm) in Germany during the 20th century.
The boundaries between art and design are blurred, largely due to a
range of applications both for the term 'art' and the term 'design'.
Applied arts has been used as an umbrella term to define fields of
industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, etc. The term
'decorative arts' is a traditional term used in historical discourses
to describe craft objects, and also sits within the umbrella of
applied arts. In graphic arts (2D image making that ranges from
photography to illustration), the distinction is often made between
fine art and commercial art, based on the context within which the
work is produced and how it is traded.
To a degree, some methods for creating work, such as employing
intuition, are shared across the disciplines within the applied arts
and fine art. Mark Getlein, writer, suggests the principles of design
are "almost instinctive", "built-in", "natural", and part of "our
sense of 'rightness'." However, the intended application and
context of the resulting works will vary greatly.
A drawing for a booster engine for steam locomotives.
applied to design, with emphasis on function and the utilization of
mathematics and science.
Design and engineering
In engineering, design is a component of the engineering process. Many
overlapping methods and processes can be seen when comparing Product
Industrial design and Engineering. The American Heritage
Dictionary defines design as: "To conceive or fashion in the mind;
invent," and "To formulate a plan", and defines engineering as: "The
application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical
ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and
economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.".
Both are forms of problem-solving with a defined distinction being the
application of "scientific and mathematical principles". The
increasingly scientific focus of engineering in practice, however, has
raised the importance of new more "human-centered" fields of
design. How much science is applied in a design is a question of
what is considered "science". Along with the question of what is
considered science, there is social science versus natural science.
Xerox PARC made the distinction of design versus
engineering at "moving minds" versus "moving atoms" (probably in
contradiction to the origin of term "engineering - engineer" from
Latin "in genio" in meaning of a "genius" what assumes existence of a
"mind" not of an "atom").
Jonathan Ive has received several awards for his design of Apple Inc.
products like this MacBook. In some design fields, personal computers
are also used for both design and production
Design and production
The relationship between design and production is one of planning and
executing. In theory, the plan should anticipate and compensate for
potential problems in the execution process.
problem-solving and creativity. In contrast, production involves a
routine or pre-planned process. A design may also be a mere plan that
does not include a production or engineering processes although a
working knowledge of such processes is usually expected of designers.
In some cases, it may be unnecessary or impractical to expect a
designer with a broad multidisciplinary knowledge required for such
designs to also have a detailed specialized knowledge of how to
produce the product.
Design and production are intertwined in many creative professional
careers, meaning problem-solving is part of execution and the reverse.
As the cost of rearrangement increases, the need for separating design
from production increases as well. For example, a high-budget project,
such as a skyscraper, requires separating (design) architecture from
(production) construction. A Low-budget project, such as a locally
printed office party invitation flyer, can be rearranged and printed
dozens of times at the low cost of a few sheets of paper, a few drops
of ink, and less than one hour's pay of a desktop publisher.
This is not to say that production never involves problem-solving or
creativity, nor that design always involves creativity. Designs are
rarely perfect and are sometimes repetitive. The imperfection of a
design may task a production position (e.g. production artist,
construction worker) with utilizing creativity or problem-solving
skills to compensate for what was overlooked in the design process.
Likewise, a design may be a simple repetition (copy) of a known
preexisting solution, requiring minimal, if any, creativity or
problem-solving skills from the designer.
An example of a business workflow process using Business Process Model
Business process management and Method engineering
"Process design" (in contrast to "design process" mentioned above)
refers to the planning of routine steps of a process aside from the
expected result. Processes (in general) are treated as a product of
design, not the method of design. The term originated with the
industrial designing of chemical processes. With the increasing
complexities of the information age, consultants and executives have
found the term useful to describe the design of business processes as
well as manufacturing processes.
Design elements and principles
^ Dictionary meanings in the Cambridge Dictionary of American English,
at Dictionary.com (esp. meanings 1–5 and 7–8) and at AskOxford
^ Brinkkemper, S. (1996). "Method engineering: engineering of
information systems development methods and tools". Information and
Software Technology. 38 (4): 275–280.
^ Ralph, P. and Wand, Y. (2009). A proposal for a formal definition of
the design concept. In Lyytinen, K., Loucopoulos, P., Mylopoulos, J.,
and Robinson, W., editors,
Design Requirements Workshop (LNBIP 14),
pp. 103–136. Springer-Verlag, p. 109
^ Don Kumaragamage, Y. (2011).
Design Manual Vol 1
^ Simon (1996)
^ Alexander, C. (1964) Notes on the Synthesis of Form, Harvard
^ Eekels, J. (2000). "On the Fundamentals of
Science: The Geography of
Design Science, Part 1". Journal
Engineering Design. 11 (4): 377–397.
^ a b Braha, D. and Maimon, O. (1998) A Mathematical Theory of Design,
^ Dorst and Dijkhuis 1995, p. 261
^ a b Brooks 2010
^ a b c Schön 1983
^ a b c d Ralph 2010
^ Dorst and Cross 2001
^ Newell and Simon 1972; Simon 1969
^ Pahl and Beitz 1996
^ Royce 1970
^ Bourque and Dupuis 2004
^ Pahl et al. 2007
^ Cross, N., 2006. T211
Design and Designing: Block 2, p. 99. Milton
Keynes: The Open University.
^ Ullman, David G. (2009) The Mechanical
Design Process, Mc Graw Hill,
4th edition ISBN 0-07-297574-1
^ a b Cross et al. 1992; Ralph 2010; Schön 1983
^ Brooks 2010; McCracken and Jackson 1982
^ Beck et al. 2001
^ Truex et al. 2000
^ Ralph 2010, p. 67
^ Thomas Fischer:
Design Enigma. A typographical metaphor for
enigmatic processes, including designing, in: T. Fischer, K. De
Biswas, J.J. Ham, R. Naka, W.X. Huang, Beyond Codes and Pixels:
Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Computer-Aided
Research in Asia, p. 686
^ Jane Anderson: Architectural Design, Basics
Lausanne, AVA academia, 2011, ISBN 978-2-940411-26-9, p. 40
^ Holm, Ivar (2006). Ideas and Beliefs in
Architecture and Industrial
design: How attitudes, orientations and underlying assumptions shape
the built environment. Oslo School of
Architecture and Design.
^ Heskett, John (2002). Toothpicks and Logos:
Design in Everyday Life.
Oxford University Press.
^ First Things First 2000 a design manifesto Archived 2011-12-19 at
the Wayback Machine.. manifesto published jointly by 33 signatories
in: Adbusters, the
AIGA journal, Blueprint, Emigre, Eye, Form, Items
fall 1999/spring 2000
^ Simon (1996), p. 111.
^ Mark Getlein, Living With Art, 8th ed. (New York: 2008) 121.
^ American Psychological Association (APA): design Archived 2007-01-08
at the Wayback Machine.. The
American Heritage Dictionary of the
English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 10, 2007
^ American Psychological Association (APA): engineering Archived
2007-01-02 at the Wayback Machine.. The American Heritage Dictionary
of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 10, 2007
^ Faste 2001
Look up design in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Design
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Design.
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Beck, K., Beedle, M., van Bennekum, A., Cockburn, A., Cunningham, W.,
Fowler, M., Grenning, J., Highsmith, J., Hunt, A., Jeffries, R., Kern,
J., Marick, B., Martin, R.C., Mellor, S., Schwaber, K., Sutherland,
J., and Thomas, D. Manifesto for agile software development, 2001.
Bourque, P., and Dupuis, R. (eds.) Guide to the software engineering
body of knowledge (SWEBOK). IEEE Computer Society Press, 2004
Brooks, F.P. The design of design: Essays from a computer scientist,
Addison-Wesley Professional, 2010 ISBN 0-201-36298-8.
Cross, N., Dorst, K., and Roozenburg, N.
Research in design thinking,
Delft University Press, Delft, 1992 ISBN 90-6275-796-0.
Dorst, K.; Cross, N. (2001). "
Creativity in the design process:
Co-evolution of problem-solution".
Design Studies. 22 (2): 425–437.
Dorst, K., and Dijkhuis, J. "Comparing paradigms for describing design
Design Studies (16:2) 1995, pp 261–274.
Faste, R. (2001). "The Human Challenge in
Engineering Design" (PDF).
International Journal of
Engineering Education. 17 (4–5):
McCracken, D.D.; Jackson, M.A. (1982). "Life cycle concept considered
harmful". SIGSOFT Software
Engineering Notes. 7 (2): 29–32.
Newell, A., and Simon, H. Human problem solving, Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
Pahl, G., and Beitz, W.
Engineering design: A systematic approach,
Springer-Verlag, London, 1996 ISBN 3-540-19917-9.
Pahl, G., Beitz, W., Feldhusen, J., and Grote, K.-H. Engineering
design: A systematic approach, (3rd ed.), Springer-Verlag, 2007
Ralph, P. "Comparing two software design process theories"
International Conference on
Research in Information
Systems and Technology (DESRIST 2010), Springer, St. Gallen,
Switzerland, 2010, pp. 139–153.
Royce, W.W. "Managing the development of large software systems:
Concepts and techniques," Proceedings of Wescon, 1970.
Schön, D.A. The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in
action, Basic Books, USA, 1983.
Simon, H.A. The sciences of the artificial, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA,
USA, 1996 ISBN 0-262-69191-4.
Truex, D.; Baskerville, R.; and Travis, J. (2000). "Amethodical
systems development: The deferred meaning of systems development
Management and Information Technologies. 10 (1):
Film title design
Postage stamp design
Signage / Traffic sign design
Typography / Type design
Architectural lighting design
Environmental impact design
Healthy community design
Automotive suspension design
Corrugated box design
Electric guitar design
Hardware interface design
Packaging and labeling
Photographic lens design
Video game design
Hardware interface design
Sonic interaction design
User experience design
User interface design
Public art design
Ceramic / glass design
Game art design
Stage/set lighting design
Electrical system design
Integrated circuit design
Power network design
Nuclear weapon design
Nucleic acid design
Engineering design process
For behaviour change
For Six Sigma
Theory of constraints
Top-down and bottom-up
Design for All
Virtual home design software
Design quality indicator
Electronic design automation
Product design specification
Web design program
Fashion design copyright
Industrial design rights
Chartered Society of Designers
Design and Industries Association
International Forum Design
Design Award (Chicago)
Design Award (Japan)
IF product design award
James Dyson Award
Prince Philip Designers Prize
New product development
Philosophy of design
elements and principles