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DESIGN: What is design and why is it important?

Design is present in every aspect of our lives, whether we realise it or not. Somebody somewhere designed every manmade thing you see; from the building you call home to the shoes on your feet to the software interface on your phone.

But what does the term mean exactly? What makes design good or bad? And what role does design play in our society? Many of us struggle to articulate solid answers to these questions.

The term design generally refers to the process of envisioning and planning the creation of objects, interactive systems, buildings etc. The intended user should be at the forefront of the designer’s approach, as design is about creating solutions for people to address a need. It permeates many aspects of our lives branching out into infinite subgenres, from the abstract to the physical.

The success of a specific design is, of course, ultimately subjective; however, in the 1970's, influential German designer and academic Dieter Rams attempted to outline ten principles that constitute ‘good design’. 50 years on, these principles are still followed by creators around the world. According to Rams, ‘good design’ is:

1. Innovative

With ongoing technological development, the possibilities for improvement are endless. The best design exudes originality and features new methods.

2. Useful

It must satisfy a certain criterion and help the user to do or obtain something. Anything that detracts from the functionality should be discarded.

3. Aesthetic

Looks shouldn’t be considered a luxury. The aesthetic quality of the products and buildings that we use every day can have a significant impact on our wellbeing.

4. Understandable

The function should be pretty much self-explanatory, making use of the user’s natural intuition, rather than relying on complex instruction manuals.

5. Unobtrusive

It should be unpretentious and restrained, leaving room for the user’s self-expression.

6. Honest

It shouldn’t make false promises to the consumer, claiming to be any more special or original than it really is.

7. Long-lasting

In modern society, fast fashion and throwaway fads are commonplace. A well-designed product should be of high quality and surpass trends, remaining relevant over a long period of time.

8. Thorough

Nothing must be left to chance. Precision and thoughtfulness throughout the design process are key to alleviate any functional mishaps.

9. Environmentally-friendly

Rams was one of the first voices in the design world to put emphasis on design’s part to play in the preservation of the environment. How a product is created and used across its lifespan should be carefully-done, with minimal waste and pollution.

10. As Little 'Design' as Possible

Prioritising simplicity ensures the design doesn’t use more resources than it needs, and its function remains clear to the beholder.

So, why is design, or more specifically, good design important in our society?

It affects our psychological state

Being surrounded by aesthetically-pleasing stuff can make us feel calmer and generally happier, whilst poorly-designed buildings, neighbourhoods or products can have the opposite effect. This concept might seem trivial, however, there has been a lot of scientific research suggesting the power our material environment has on us.

It can make everyday life easier

Design is so interwoven into every aspect of civilisation. Transport systems, for example, determine how long one’s daily commute takes, which has a knock-on effect on how much time we have left each day for recreation or to spend with family. Well-designed products save us time, freeing up hours and energy to focus on more important activities, or giving us the tools to complete tasks that would be impossible unassisted.

It can communicate a message

That old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ springs to mind. Often visuals can project a message in a much quicker and more accessible way than words. The use of certain colours, shapes or typography in graphic design, for example, have connotations within popular culture that will either attract or put off certain demographics to a brand.

It can help to solve global issues

Experts in design, alongside great minds in other professional fields, have the means to reimagine and create a more sustainable society. We have the knowledge and the power to design greener buildings and cities, more sustainable products, and create a closed circular economy, minimising the detrimental effects to our planet. So, there you have it. Design and what makes it important, in a nutshell. Here at Ecopots, we take our responsibilities as designers pretty seriously. Our architects create with soothing aesthetic appeal, functionality, and durability at the centre of each and every one of their designs, adhering to Ram’s principles of ‘good design’ and striving to provide solutions to problems. To learn more about our brand philosophy and innovations, check out the ‘About Ecopots’ page.



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