Design is such a multi-layered practice that it’s often difficult to define. That being said, I believe that the word “design” is increasingly confused with “style”. For example, to most “I like the way it’s designed” means that they like the way that something looks.
To me this all relates back to when I was still at university, The way I always saw it was, you were one of two types of designers. The BA type which were all about the looks and nothing else. Or the BSC type which meant you had to figure out all the inner working and chose every part of it down to the last detail. But because BSC were being marked on these points the style was sometimes nothing more than an after thought. The problem is in the real word you need to be good at both! (also sorry for painting this very broad brush stroke but you get the point)
The visual aspect of what we do is highly important, and style has a place in that. For example, if we want to connect with a particular audience, employing a style can sometimes be helpful. That being said, it seems that style often leads efforts. We have to break this habit.
The challenge here is that as we are bombarded by these styles, designers, by their own accord and that of their clients and peers, gravitate towards reiterating whatever the style-du-jour happens to be. (Think of the swoosh logos of the late 1990s.) It’s easy to do, the pay-off is immediate, and for a short while, one’s portfolio seems deceptively strong. Most times though, this work is void of the research, strategy, and logic that are necessary to do something effective. As a result, Im sorry to say, it’s in fact a big pile of shiny bullsh*t.
In turn, we’re left with scads of generic work that doesn’t hold-up for any length of time. There’s no design there, just polish that quickly tarnishes requiring another coat. In the meanwhile, budgets are exhausted, clients are left to with an out-of-date “look”, and designers are seen as stylists: kooky kids who like to do fun, pointless things. At the risk of being melodramatic, I believe that this approach diminishes the value of our industry and limits our opportunity to contribute to higher-level discussions.
Lets get this sorted people!