What is Design?

Conceptual Design
Conceptual Design is the ability to communicate a holistic architecture of a large product, service or solution.

A conceptual designer is able to mockup the end-to-end, top-to-bottom structure of this solution.  This includes a strong understanding of the technologies involved, without which the conceptual designer is doing “Ivory Tower Design”.

This kind of design is done on a piece of paper, a white-board or just talking.  It is often abstract and missing many details, but the core of the design is feasible and the details can be worked out without re-conceptualizing the original architecture.

User Experience Design
User Experience Design is focused on the interaction of the human beings involved with the solution and how they feel about it.

Conceptual Design and UX Design go hand-in-hand.  A well architected system doesn’t inspire loyalty by itself.  A UX Designer turns that solution into something people are inspired by and love.  In addition to the target market, the internal team members building, selling and supporting the solution need to be inspired as well.

User Experience is the complete interaction a person has with a company.  This includes everything, including when a friend gives a referral.  Net Promoter is the fundamental way of knowing whether the UX Design is working.

Information Architecture
Information Architecture is the craft of organizing content on a single screen or organizing many screens throughout an entire solution.

Where do things live for the users eyes? Where do they live in the users minds?  These are the key questions to answer to have a well-organized and scalable solution.

Many  applications look like the functionality was blasted onto the screen by a shotgun.  Elegance of information architecture can solve many problems down the road.

Interaction Design
Interaction Design is focused on specific elements of the user interface.  These are the things the user touches and interacts with in the product.

This is the workhorse of the design team.  For every conceptual design, there are a gaggle of details that need to be described.  The requirements of  the product managers turns into the storyboards of the designers.  Those storyboards are engineering deliverables.

A lot of interaction design can be solved with a strong framework like Sencha.  However, the framework only gets you half-way.  How you wield that weapon is the key to people thinking your app is “easy to use”.

Graphic Design
Probably the best understood of the design world, Graphic Design is concerned with how things look.

The color, balance, composition and overall look of the service all contribute to how people perceive the product.  Many studies have shown that beautifully crafted objects have higher task completion rates and higher Net Promoter scores.

For graphic design, taking a picture of the application and hanging it on the wall should result in a beautiful piece of art.

Design Leadership
Design = decisions.

Design is something that everyone contributes towards because each and every decision is something the user can only take a whole.  The end-resulting product is the collection of all the decisions made in the building of the product.

Design Leadership is about coordinating and synthesizing the input from various stakeholders and pulling it together into a coherent plan.  Whether this is done 1:1 with someone or in a group meeting, the design leader must be able to defend a design as well as take input to improve it.

Different people will have talents more in one area and less in another.  However, every designer must do all of these tasks at one point or another, regardless of talent. It’s important to understand these different crafts because they all need to get done to deliver a product or service.  Don’t sell one of them short.  Each contributes towards the overall awesome of the offering.

3 replies on “What is Design?”

My thanks, I was thinking while driving home that I’d love to sit down and determine exactly each term meant, so I could accurately describe the entire web stack. You took care of the design part for me.

Whatya think?