There are many definitions of the word “design”. It is both a verb and a noun, and as such we refer to many things as design.
I’ve noticed that most people refer to “design” when they speak about objects with certain aesthetical qualities. But as a designer of interactive media I have always felt very strong about design being the process we use to get to an end result, and not the result itself. Aesthetics are part of the process but not the only ingredient and certainly not the most important one.
In essence I like to look at the journey we go through as designers in 3 basic steps: Learning, exploring and creating.
Learning | On one side we observe the people we will be creating something for and the context in which they will use it. This to truly understand what it is that will be meaningful and of value to them. On the other we distill and frame the objectives from a business point of view.
Exploring | Based on our newly acquired understanding we explore new ideas. We create sketches where the essence of the ideas are visualized and the true meaning of the ideas is captured. The ideas that best fit the business objectives are selected and refined until a specific idea can be selected.
Creating | The selected idea gets detailed out in all it’s elements: Function, aesthetics and technical specifications. Always keeping the people in mind who will be using whatever it is we are designing. We design for them, not for us.
Of course I have over simplified these steps, but to me this is really what it boils down to if I think of design.