What is design? Who is a designer? I've been a designer for 13 years and what I do now isn't the same as what I started doing but I'm still a designer. I spent the first couple of years designing books and doing traditional ad agency work, eventually moving into User Experience design. While the nature of the output changed I was still a "designer" just in different mediums.


I've heard the term "designer" used to describe a wide variety of jobs. Usually when people outside of the creative world talk about designers they are thinking just about people who make things look nice. At the same time however I've heard Information Architects referred to as designers and they don't usually contribute to the aesthetic at all. So who's a designer? What defines a designer? I think the answer is in how you answer the larger question of, "what is design?"


What is Design?

Design is not defined by making things look pretty. Making things aesthetically pleasing can be a component of design, but it is not the sole defining factor. At it's most broad, design is problem solving. It is making a solution to meet the needs of other people (users). By this definition you can have well designed code, a well designed wire-frame, a well designed city, a well designed phone, a well designed experience, etc. It isn't necessarily about the visual. When something is well designed it meets the needs of the intended audience - it has solved a problem. User Experience design works to solve the problems of users interacting with an experience (usually digital). A UX designer then is someone taking human computer interaction knowledge, usability data, and visual design and bringing them together to create great interactive experiences that help people.


Still though the idea that great design means something looks great persists. Is Craigslist well designed? It isn't attractive but it has the content people want and it solves a problem. Is the Juicy Salif well designed? It's beautiful but the gold plated version can't be used to juice lemons because the acid in the lemons will destroy the gold. It can be challenging to define what makes great design, but at its core is the creation of something that solves problems for others.