A Mini Sermon About Design

First off, I’m sorry if this sounds like a lecture. I’m not sure how to express it another way.

I hear from a lot of small business and start-up customers who are confused about design. This is not surprising because design is complicated and is not the same thing as shopping, styling or decorating. Design is about making things that work. Great design is about making things that both work and are beautiful. Engineers and Architects are types of designer. It takes years to train and get good at it and requires a deep knowledge of both art and technology. You can learn a little on a short course but it’s not enough to teach you more than the very basics.

During my career as a designer I've met lots of customers who believed they were better designers than me. Normally, they told me how to design for them by copying designs that had been made by others. This is not original thinking or using any imagination to see things in new ways so it’s not how genuine designers work.

If you’re designing your home only you have to worry about whether or not you like it, at least until you want to sell it, at which point you may have added value if you’ve done things well. If you’re designing a business, getting its design wrong (normally by basing it on your own personal tastes and not what the market demands) will likely work out a lot more expensive than hiring the most expensive designer you can find. As you can imagine, I see a lot of dreadful mess-ups.

If you’re confused about how to design then maybe it’s because you haven’t done your ten thousand hours (more in my case) of seeing projects through from concept to completion. It’s impossible to be confident in this situation unless you don’t know that you don’t know what you’re doing.

My suggestion is that you think about hiring an expert. The only one you can afford is the best.

And lastly, there’s no such thing as free design. So called ‘free design’ is just a way for kitchen makers, and those like them, to sell modular units. I believe that the use of the term ‘free design’ has lead many to think that design is always a free entitlement and that this leads to them not looking for paid advice when it would be best.