Defining This Thing of Ours An exclusive post from the newsletter

Very few of us designers, myself included, know how to answer the question “What is design?”—at any length, much less succinctly. Did you ever think about how fundamentally messed up that is? The inability to explain our craft to the uninitiated, as I’ve written in the past, is one of our biggest abdications of responsibility as a profession. It’s a sustained, decades-long missed opportunity to help the world at large better appreciate the value of design.

In fairness, it’s a really difficult question to answer. I took a crack at it in today’s post but all modesty aside my attempt, while game, is hardly going to settle the matter. It’s way too wordy, and probably far too equivocal, too. But I found it to be a really useful exercise, at least for myself, to try to do away with as much professional jargon as I could, to get down to the core of what it is that designers do. Maybe this is something more of us should be doing as exercises for ourselves, to help us root ourselves in concrete language and better refine the relevancy of design itself? “What is design?” is an incredibly important question; it seems like we shouldn’t be continually kicking the can down the road when it comes to answering it.

Cheers from New York,