Design is the craft of visualising concrete solutions that serve human needs and goals within certain constraints.
– Kim Goodwin
The common misconception surrounding designers is that we exist simply to make things look aesthetically pleasing. We do not come equipped with the knowledge of engineers. Our instruments? Mostly our ability to visualise and conceptualise. Indeed, whenever my relatives ask me what I am studying and I reply “design,” the looks I often receive from them are either of confusion or of pity. Without allowing me to elaborate further, they concluded within themselves that the reason why I am studying design is because I am unable to do anything else.
And just like Goodwin has said, even designers seldom agree on exactly what design is, much less people outside of this industry. However, of all the definitions out there, I feel that Goodwin’s encompasses most of what design is really about. Goodwin’s definition goes beyond aesthetics. In her definition, design is solutions to be it physical products or services.
This sentence in particular stood out to me the most: “In order for design to be design and not art, it must serve human needs and goals.”
What sets us apart from engineers is our ability to go beyond the simply functional, we understand that pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction are also important human goals, and we take all these into consideration in addition to all other constraints.
In this chapter, Goodwin introduced Goal-Directed Design, an approach of which its fundamental premise is that the best way to design a successful product is to focus on achieving goals. Within this approach, designers also draws on fields like ergonomics and HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) to fulfil their goals. Goal-Directed Design is not intended to be another set of rules and constraints but rather, providing a framework by which designers are free to generate great solutions without having to worry about going off-track.
I particularly agree with this approach. When we think in terms of achieving goals, and less on what we can or cannot do, we are less restricted in the conceptualisation process. We are able to freely think up of anything, for anything is possible as long as it is a solution that can achieve the goals. In this sense, designers are released of most inhibitions, and yet at the same time, still designing while on the right track. By setting clear, achievable goals beforehand, the risk of design solutions going to waste is kept to a minimal, all the while increasing productivity and efficiency. Designers know exactly why and what they are designing for.
This is incredibly important as we are now designing for an age that produces as fast as we discards. The lifespan of a design being groundbreaking and in the loop becomes shorter and shorter as we advances at an even faster pace thanks to technology. What is new today may become outdated tomorrow. By setting long term achievable goals, designers are able to constantly keep in mind to design for the future.