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Friday, October 16, 2009

Design Definition

Design Definition Paper
Julie Malone
University of Phoenix
OI 462 Business Management and the Principles of Design
Ray S. DePuy, PE
November 17, 2008


Design can basically be perceived as the conception of a product that meets specific human needs and where the development of strategies, processes, products, and services within an organization begin. Design is about the function, nature, and appearance of things and involves communication, problem solving, and creativity (Cooper and Press, 1995). This report provides a definition of design, introduces six different perspectives on the way design is used in an organization, and provides examples of how design can impact the organization.

Design Definition Paper

Design covers many different disciplines and perspectives and is recognized as being essential to an enterprise that goes beyond individualism (painting or sculpturing) to globalization by reaching across traditional boundaries within organizations to create innovative business ventures. This is achieved through a corporate planning process to meet market demands through focus on discrete activities, management functions, and cultural phenomena industry-wide. Design has a multi-faceted impact and provides value in several areas such as organizational, economic, competitive, cultural, and social values. By applying design principles universally, an organization can effectively meet its strategic and operational needs, objectives, and operations through reduced costs and improved quality and branding.

Compare and Contrast Six Types of Design

Design offers six perspectives: artistic, problem solving, creative acts, family of professions, an industry, and a process. As one can see, while each perspective can be part of the organization, each type of design offers its own personality and individualism as to what design can offer an organization.

When design is an art, it expresses ideals and expression like in a painting, sculptor, play, musical, or a combination of art, crafts, and advanced technology with the result of a visual product. Consumers look to art to communicate value, find personal truth, and that shows an interest in culture, rather than just amusement. A CAD drawing or mock-up made of ceramic or wood can be used for a marketing strategy at an architectural firm when building a model of the finished product. In the text, The Design Agenda: A Guide to Successful Design Management (Cooper and Press, 1995), Dieter Rams, designer of domestic appliances, believed that products should manifest their purpose and a good design means as little design as possible. Design can be viewed as a visual barometer to the cultural perspective due to changing times since products evolve value and aspiration to future designers. Presenting design as art can be a marketing strategy, but the nature of design is changing as the boundary between art and culture expands since consumers are looking for products to symbolize their personal values.

When design is a problem solver, a need to fulfill a specific function or problem the currently exists including balancing a range of requirements determined by technology and materials, production constraints, market considerations and human factors (physical and psychological characteristics of the user). Problem solving is based on understanding the human factor that determines how easy or difficult a product is to use. When a product is poorly designed or includes a safety concern or an obsolete fashion, it can create a problem and an organization needs to research, strategize, and combine specialty knowledge in order to problem solve for a new product.

When design is a creative act it consists of 98% common sense and 2% creative, which means creating an environment to encourage creative thought consisting of combining previous unrelated structures into a new innovative structure which proves valuable in a project. The creative process includes five stages: first sight (formulating the problem), preparation (understanding the problem), incubation (relaxation to allow subconscious thought), illumination (emergence of the idea), and verification (idea development and testing) (Cooper and Press, 1995).

Design can be a family of professions such as different divisions or departments of a graphic design company. This type of design is also known as a design family tree, along with roots in traditional skills and methods such as drawing, modeling, and simulation; the tree can grow into disciplines (trunk) such as graphics or fashion that rely on artistic abilities, to engineering and electronics, which rely on science. The branches of the tree combine art and science such as CAD, fabrics, ceramics, tools, photography, along with product, environmental, information, and corporate identity design.

Design as an industry can be telecommunications, fashion, cosmetics, or automobiles. An industry can develop when business opportunities emerge for college students majoring in design. The role of the designer first materialized as a consultant rather than as an employee since the market was driven by need. Later companies created in-house design teams and based them within the engineering department. The role of industrial designer was created when the government required the specialized knowledge during wartime. The industry has played an important part in history with the creation of decorative streets, magazines, fashion, to decorated retail stores.

Design can be viewed as an individual creative activity or strategic planning process that applies the innovative potential of the enterprise with the changing requirements of the market when the product solves the consumers’ needs. The internal process of designing involves defining, thinking, and understanding the problem, developing an idea, reviewing the details, and testing the products. The external process of a design includes the concept (fulfill given objective), embodiment (structural development of the most suitable concept), detail (confirm specifications and production process), and production (manufacture the product or provide a service (Cooper and Press, 1995).

Design’s Impact on Organizations

Design has an impact on every organization since every product starts with a “design.” Design as an art lets individuals express lifestyle in the fashion industry; art affected Levi 501’s jeans by giving consumers the expression of rebellion and freedom. Design as a problem-solver can be shown through Seventh Generation, one of the country's first self-declared "socially responsible" companies and authentic, safe, and environmentally-responsible products for a healthy home. The product is making a difference by saving natural resources, reducing pollution, keeping toxic chemicals out of the environment and making the world a safer place for this and the next seven generations (Seventh Generation, 2008).

Nike uses design as a creative act when the co-founder, Bill Bowerman, made an observation of the endless possibilities for human potential. Their response was to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world by developing products that help athletes of every level of ability reach their potential, and to create business opportunities that set Nike apart from the competition and provide shareholder value (Nike, 2008).

The automobile organization is an example of design as a family of professions, an industry, and a process and has impacted the entire world economy. Management and employees focus on the manufacturing of a particular line of vehicles, use management teams with expertise and design skills of every part of the vehicle and who know the process of completing a vehicle in its entirety.


This report supplied a definition of design, introduced six different perspectives in which design can be used in an organization, and presented examples of how design can impact the organization through art, problem solving, creative acts, family of professions, industry, and process. It was interesting how organizations often combine methods when creating and designing a product to distribute to the public.


Cooper, R. & Press, M. (1992). The Design Agenda: A Guide to Successful Design
Management. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

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