Note in progress Last updated August 06, 2021

Design is a sense.

🧤 This page does not disambiguate between the usage of "design" as a verb and as a noun. The utility of the word design, and the act of design, is exactly in this ambiguity. I suggest reading each mention of the word twice, once from the perspective of the designer and again from that of the public.

Design is a sense; as in a sense of fashion (taste in something), but also as in a physical sensation (taste of something), and as in a mechanism for sensation (taste with something). In this way, design is the reproductive organ of ideology and sense-making. It operates at both aesthetic and material registers, eg. in beauty and economy, maintaining the conditions of life for dominant myths and cultural narratives, all the while transforming those same myths and narratives. Design is both the chicken and the egg.

Design is sense-making; it is a way way of navigating inner and outer worlds. It is also a way of producing new worlds. Design is endemic to being in the world; the door propped open with a shoe, the coaster you put under that wobbly table leg, the earnestly careless graphics on trucks driving down Bowery on a Sunday morning. It's a way of getting by.

Design is "in a sense" — interpreted, situated, and embodied. It is ultimately defined not by its form or content, but by its context. Designed reality is a magic lantern show, not so dissimilar from Plato's allegory of the cave.

Design is for the senses — I don't mean that super literally (there are excellent books that do: They Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa; The Senses: Design Beyond Vision by Ellen Lupton). Design objects and designed systems are made to be touched, felt, used, even consumed by people. Design decisions should take this into account, thinking about the many senses users have using a product: their senses of patience and value; their senses of sight, hearing, and touch; their senses of style and communication. Design for those senses.