Design Is … -isms

In preparation for the upcoming Design In Tech Report I’ve gone back to look at my Twitter feed over the last ten years to see what I thought design’s meant to me. Some of these “-isms” are more right or more wrong depending upon the era that they came from so it’s a little embarrassing to look back like this. But that’s how we all learn: by trying out all of our ideas in public to see what might stick! —JM


Designers are taught to strive for perfection, but the startup world demands shipping fast, and often imperfectly.

Design blurs the line between beauty and functionality, hope and pragmatism.

Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.

Design is now used early in the product development process instead at the very end.

Design is the practiced juxtaposition of unrelated ideas to re-make them in relation to each other, like counseling.

2016 Tweet

Design is all too often used as an attractive costume for a so-so idea.

Design is a critical factor in launching a successful venture today.

Design makes what is hard, easier. And makes what is easier, memorable.

Design is more than just a sexy looking product. Design is a sexy *working* product.

Design is both “artistic” and “scientific” — it’s a hybrid discipline with the accent on *hybrid*.

Let designers code, and engineers design.

—for the WSJ in 2014

I’ve just started experimenting with the Podcast world now with #aichakupod

Listen on Google Play Music

Design isn’t just about beauty; it’s about market relevance and meaningful results.

Let designers code, and engineers design.

A designer is someone who constructs while s/he thinks.

A designer is someone for whom making and planning go hand-in-mind.

What Are The Reactive Books? Five limited edition books I published in the 90s to speak against common held “interactivity” approaches, and instead to push for a more decidedly “reactive” approach. 

Some designers are good at “made you look,” while others are better at “made you re-think.”

A computational designer understands computation at the level of code and networks.

A computational designer thinks critically about technology and its impact on people.

Designers who are self-learners are advantaged in the #DesignInTech professional world.

A computational designer thinks critically about technology and its impact on people.

—2017 Design In Tech Report

Designers craft enduring metaphors that stick to the roof of your mind.

Designers can work within bounded constraints because of their boundless influences.

Designers use collective wit, socio-physical science, and old-fashioned bravery to make unusually relevant moments happen for us all.

Design is an intended process of invention, or improvement, grounded in both the subjective (intuition) and *increasingly* objective (data).

Modern designers simultaneously optimize for measurable efficiencies, aesthetic comfort, and — always — strategic advantage.

For designers, elegance = empathy; for engineers, elegance = efficiency; for business, elegance = evergreen. You need all three.

2016 Tweet

Designer avoid areas of market tiredness, identify areas of market readiness, and passionately love all-out market making-ness.

Some designers are good at “made you look,” while others are better at “made you re-think.” More often, bad designers just “made you mad.”

Engineers used to just design for machine/system constraints. Designers used to just engineer for human/social constraints.

For designers, elegance = empathy; for engineers, elegance = efficiency; for business, elegance = evergreen. You need all three.

2 Replies to “Design Is … -isms”

  1. It remained me a poet by Kenji Miyazawa, “Ame ni mo makezu” and I would like to add “Such a designer I want to be.” at the end 😉

    I also had a chat with my friend about “Design is a solution to a problem… ” tweet. He said “Art poses questions to about problems,” but these problems are not the same kinds of problems design, science and technology have.

  2. These are great!

    I have a favorite of yours–Designers craft enduring metaphors that stick to the roof of your mind.

    Another favorite–”Design is intelligence made visible.”

    Thanks for sharing.

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