Dan Saffer from Adaptive Path, what exactly does “design” mean?

First of all, thank you for your great post and the very insightful discussion in the comments. It seems that you are facing a problem that we Germans definitely do not have. We are suffering from the opposite: a lack of skilled “thinking” designers.

I do strongly agree with you saying design is more than thinking. The “making” is the crucial point where thoughts “get real”. Without the visual expression, a thought has no “shape”, or as we say, “Gestalt”. Gestalt encloses explicitly the visual form of a thing (or person). In Germany, designers are also called “Gestalter”.

But where does the work of a designer end and where does the “manufacturing” begin?

I do agree with you that “attention to detail” must be part of design. A detail can be very important to a thing’s Gestalt. Think of the human face. Some tiny details can shape the appearance of the whole person. But not all details are important. For a designer, it is key skill to know where to put emphasis on.

I do not agree when it comes to “craft”. Crafting includes “producing” the object till it’s finished, and that would include e.g. coding HTML when it comes to web interfaces. This kind of crafting is often called “webdesign”. I guess you know what i mean, you are not searching for a webdesigner. That’s why i say crafts are not part of design.

Looking at the discussion thread, i think a lot of the confusion and irritation is caused by the lack of a common sense: what is design? Not only design education, design in general needs this so desperately. I’m so sick of explaining people what i am doing…


I like the “Design is like California – nobody is born there.”

  1. Dan Saffer says:

    By craft, I do not mean “development” or “manufacturing.” An understanding of those are essential, however.