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What is design?

A rant that leads into a calmer look at the role of Design

Kris Jeary

Author:
Published: 12th December 2013

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I recently had a tweet appear on my timeline...

The only person who views a website as a piece of art is... a webdesigner. Are your customers webdesigners? [sic]

The person in question runs a digital workshop helping people maximise their website conversions, I do not know how successful they are, but ignoring (and even lambasting) the design element seems foolhardy to me.

I'll admit to some level of annoyance at reading. Yet after the red mist dissipated, I was left contemplating the responsibility designers have to educate as well as to create.

If only it was as simple as our tweeter suggested. No designer I know considers design to be purely art, they are separate disciplines dealing with differing goals. There are cross overs and design can be artistic but it is not the goal for commercial projects.

Design is beautifully described by Sir George Cox (former chairman of the Design Council) :

Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end.

Sir George Cox

Design exists to solve problems, each website's problems are unique but often the aim is to lead a visitor to make a purchase, a donation or make contact. How you achieve this varies greatly depending on the product/service as well as the target demographic.

Throw into the mix the need to design responsively (what is responsive design?) and it becomes apparent that crafting a compelling experience, which will lead your visitor to make that contact or purchase (no matter the device being used) takes experience and time to execute and test.

As a designer I spend a lot of time reading through analysis of eye tracking surveys, the affect of colour choices on button clicks, the number of action points you should include on a page... To name but a few things. What I am not spending time doing is coding elements in to a design because I think they look cool. Everything in a design exists to serve a purpose and (to be blunt) to manipulate your visitor into taking the acts you want them to.

The term designer is open to anyone to attach themselves to, it is not earned in the same way as a doctorate. There are self-titled designers working on complete sites for £300 and they have their market, it isn't our market.

We don't deal in quantity but rather quality and producing work that will help our clients be successful and in turn coming back to us to make enhancements.

We are advisors, quite often dissuading clients out of functionality that we feel will offer little return on investment, this is why we are trusted and respected.

In Summary

A designer is not the software he or she has installed on a lovely shiny mac. A builder isn't a builder because he or she has an awesome trowel neither is an accountant valued by how good their calculator is.

A designer is a person of experience that pays great care to the experience a visitor has when interacting with their design, a designer spends as much time researching as they do creating, a designer takes time to understand your business and your customers.

Of course this article is but a window into the world of digital design but hopefully goes some way to illustrating the inherent value of design... Ignore it at your peril.



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