When asked to define design, my classmates and I gave varied, deep and in some cases complicated answers (It’s early days into our MBA program, so the need to be complex and analytical with everything still hangs over our heads). The facilitator, combining the various descriptions, defined design as representing an idea for the purpose of achieving an objective or solving a problem. Intriguingly, he also likened a designer to a chef and creating a design to preparing a dish. I had never heard this concept described this way and going forward, it aided my understanding of the subject and its purpose in business.
Design is about problem solving while graphic design (our focus for the session) is defined as the process of visual communication. This could be in the form of postcards, posters, PowerPoint presentations, Social Media Ads (Banners and Graphics), Infographics, Brochures (Print and Digital) and many more. If you are interpreting an idea and representing it in a visual form to achieve an objective and/or solve a problem, then you are designing.
The finished product (the final design) is like the meal, ready to be served/presented. However, just as a meal doesn’t simply materialize from thin air, a design requires research, gathering of ingredients (elements) and preparation in line with certain guidelines and recipes (principles). A design project usually goes through a five-stage life cycle outlined as:
- Information gathering
- Research Strategy and Planning
- Execution & Completion
The elements of design are like the ingredients, one should know how they want to apply them and in what quantity. Understanding the nature of each one makes the process much easier. The basic elements of design are:
- Form: It is a three-dimensional object. i.e it can be measured by length, height and width. It can be filled with colour, texture or shapes. One way or the other, everything has a form.
- Shapes: The main difference between a shape and a form is that a form is always in three dimensions, a shape however can be two-dimensional for example, a triangle, or a square.
- Line: A connection between two points, a line can do as much as lead a viewer’s eyes through space and direct their emotions. All shapes have lines in them.
- Colour: In design, I believe colour has the ability to give emphasis like no other element. Colour has different connotations across the ‘spectra’ of human existence and experiences.
- Texture: This is the feel of a surface or how its perceived to feel. The best explanation I heard of this is the difference between feeling a spiky object (Tactile texture) and seeing a picture of the same object (visual texture).
- Space: Also another important element for adding emphasis, a space is the area beside, above around or under an object.
Furthermore, building on the elements of design, a designer has to abide by certain rules or recipes (if you will) that shape their work and give it harmony. These are the principles of design. They include, but are not limited to: balance, contrast, rhythm and repetition.
In truth, it is unlikely you would be required to wear an apron or a Toque Blanche to design a pitch deck for the next big tech start-up. However, it would help to see the process of designing as one which is as complete as preparing a savory dish.