Design Art or Science?
Blog, Critical Thinking

Design is Greater Than Art Plus Science

Web Designer Magazine is something I buy every month. They keep me updated since I’m a self-taught Front-End Developer. I found this article from the most recent issue. I almost didn’t read it because the title pissed me off a little bit, but I couldn’t come up with the words on why until now. And I hope these words accurately express what I think.

What bothers me about the question of “x design – art or science?” is that it minimizes design to be defined by just either Art or Science. Design is the combination of both. It cannot be just either or. When discussions about this are published, we end up dividing the creative community into scientists and artists, when in truth designers are neither but also both. And I don’t think we’re doing the creative community any favors by splitting up Designers into Engineers and Artists/Designers. At the end of the day aren’t we all solving a problem together with different skill-sets on how to execute an effective solution?

After reading this article, I concluded that I wish they used a different title. The article’s content was more of a discussion on which is more important in designing websites – The scientific part or the artsy part.

If website design is just art, it would be a poster or illustration, there wouldn’t be links or interactions. Conversely, if website design is just science, it would just be links that work, that may or may not be readable. 

The beginning of my future Grad School Design Statement:

I think it’s time to give proper credit to Design. It is bigger than Engineering and Art combined. It is the combination of something that works properly that users want to use. Let’s not question whether or not Design is Art or Science. It’s neither but it’s both.


The Flaw in “the Democratization of Design”

[Originally Published on LinkedIn – Nov 4, 2014]

Mostly associated with expanding access to design by reducing production and manufacturing costs, the term “democratization of design” negatively impacts the industry. It implies two things: that Design is not yet accessible and that Design needs to be cheaper.

People should know that “no design” does not exist. Design is not the label or brand of a product, experience, or architecture. Design is the essence of a thing. As Douglas Martin famously said, “the alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.” Design is already accessed by the 7 billion people in the world daily, regardless of whether it is good or bad. To have the idea that Design exists only in expensive things overlooks the beauty and value of well-designed products that cost very little, such as BIC pens, post-it notes, or scissors. Cost does not dictate the value of an item’s design.

Once we free ourselves from the idea that high price equals good design, it’s easy to realize that the price of a product does not have a direct relationship to the value of its design. Therefore, first order logic dictates that design cannot be democratized at all, because it has an arbitrary relationship with the idea that democratizes it.

Instead of holding onto the idea of democratizing design, our challenge is rather educating the masses on what design is and is not. Once people have a clear understanding on what good or bad design is, the pricing or value of a product or service adjusts and better reflects its true worth based on its usefulness. When this happens, we will see significant changes in the market. We will have a population that values the designer and respects their work. Clients will stop thinking they are designers. Products and services will no longer be priced on false measures. There will be fewer designers that prostitute their work, which will shift the tide of the market for all designers, novice and experienced. By doing this we will find the happy medium where designers are not restricted to design products, experiences or architecture based on how consumers behave and instead are free to design for purpose. We gain back some authorial voice by designing for the essence of a product, experience or architecture, and not for economic interests.