The Definition of Designer

For anyone who has ever dreamed of a career in the design field, I ask you this: What is design?

I have been asked this question in many ways over the years.  Mostly the question has been aimed at my philosophy of design or my POV on it.  But the definition is something that many of us may have simply overlooked.  The formal definition can be found below.

Design is a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints.


I have paraphrased it for a 140 character-friendly world.

Design is the creation of an object to accomplish goals with specific requirements in a particular environment subject to constraints.

Now, for those of you who want to be designers because you feel you are artistic or good with tools, or can build things – STOP!   While those skills will help you immensely in your endeavors, designers above all else need to be great problem solvers. That’s right, a problem solver.  Design, at its core, is a tool to accomplish the goals of a person, organization or company. Let’s revisit the definition to focus on the portion that is most critical to every designer.

… intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment,… satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints.

You can see above, design is not focused on artistry, materials or copy. Design is about understanding the issues and working to create a sound solution within a set of boundaries.  So, by definition, a designer is the individual who can create that solution. Designers can be artists or artisans, architects or visionaries, but at the end of the day, designers are critical thinkers.  They are an eclectic mix of strategist, artist, scientist, detective, anthropologist, psychologist, educator, auditor and communicator.

That’s my definition of a designer.  I don’t pretend to think that being a designer is an ordinary craft. It is not.  And while there are many of us in fields ranging from advertising to industrial design, physical rehabilitation to architecture, one thing remains constant: Designers rise to the challenge.

Every challenge is an opportunity to put on a series of hats, roll up your sleeves and grow the simple truths into something that just might change EVERYTHING.