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What Is Design? Insights From Our Product Design Team

What is design? We asked our product design team for their insights and came away with four key principles that everyone—not just designers—should know.

Jason Rapert

Jason Rapert

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The Bitovi design team recently gathered for a retreat in Miami, FL. During our many discussions between flooded hotel beds and broken escape rooms (it was an eventful week), the question arose: "what is design?"

We decided to ponder the question for a while because its answer varies based on individual experience, education, perception, and philosophy. Our experience as Product Designers compelled us to answer the question from the perspective of user experience and interface design.

Without much time to consider our initial answers, here is what we postulated on the fly:

Design is...

  • Creating something that functions.

  • Solves a problem and works for all users.

  • Affecting emotions and behaviors.

  • Creating an interactive product for people.

  • Process of discovering problems and opportunities for humans using different methods to create impact.

  • Process of creating and executing a plan for a desired future state.

  • Creating natural and seamless solutions.

Principles of Design

Once we had come up with a few ideas of what design is, we had an interesting discussion concerning design principles. We all agreed on these four key principles of design:

  1. Discovery

  2. Problem-solving

  3. Creation

  4. Human interaction

What's fascinating is that the core principles of design apply to design regardless of profession. Consider this quote from Ivan Chermayeff that perfectly encapsulates our impromptu analysis:

"Design is directed toward human beings. To design is to solve human problems by identifying them and executing the best solution."

Human Interaction as Integral to Design

If we were to highlight one of the above principles as the most significant for design, there's no doubt that Human Interaction would be the most meaningful.

While "User" is a cold descriptor for humans, our core competencies as product designers are user experience and user interface—how humans will connect and interact with the products we build.

As designers, our number one priority is making a human product that feels seamless, effortless, accessible, and essential.

In design, we begin with discovery and research, which leads to problem-solving and creation, but the essence of these tasks is uncovering the human connection.

What human opportunity do we have? What human problem must we address? What can humans tell us about their needs? What can we improve or invent to make the lives of humans better?

Asking the right questions and seeking the most objective answers through the lens of human interaction is the beginning of great design. It enables us to craft the best human experience.

"Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful." —Dieter Rams

Visual design connects the created experience with human interaction. Humans are visual creatures who respond to beautiful aesthetics and functional design. Whether it is a task management app, a complex business tool, or an engaging social app, great design makes the product invisible, and the experience comes alive. Bad design distracts, confuses, limits, and blames. But great design invites humans to forget that they are interacting with a product.

Technology and Design

We leverage technology to create the best human experience with our product design, but the technology is not the design.

While we have some of the best developers in the business, they also design for the human, not the product. Their meticulous and mindful engineering [design] enhances the user experience without emphasizing the technology. They build complex components and systems that almost seem to work by magic so that people can enjoy the experience without considering the technology.

Closing Thoughts

We’ll leave you with this quote from Paul Rand:

“Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated." —Paul Rand

At Bitovi, regardless of our job title, we're all designers. The design team may be the arbiters of “design,” but we're all designing and building products for humans, humans that we hope will never have to think twice about our products except to say, “that was a great experience.”

Need more eyes on your design?

Bitovi’s experts in Product Design consulting are here to help bring your vision to life. Not to mention, the first round’s on us—schedule your free consultation to start working with our product design consultants today!