The Purpose Driven Design

Have you ever tried to define a word such as "design"? It’s not too easy. Here’s what the New Oxford American Dictionary says:

design |dəˈzīn| noun

2 purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object

I guess that probably covers it. But then again, I find myself asking my favorite question: "So what?". I mean, what does it help me actually get done?

It looks to me like the folks over at Duarte Design have it figured out. Nancy Duarte made this post regarding the recent DesignThinkers2008 conference. In it, she very astutely stated "[proper] design isn’t about decoration, it’s about meaning and access to information". Very cool.

It’s easy to "get your flash on" and decorate information visualization up with all sorts of glassy, bouncy and flying designs; they might even be considered "tastefully stylish". But if you haven’t focused on the meaning in the information and haven’t made it accessible to the observer (i.e. understandable so they can actually do something with it), you’ve missed the purpose of the whole design process. So when you’re designing a solution for those you love, make sure you stay purpose driven.

Thanks Duarte for helping us keep our eyes on the ball!

(For those of you who might not know who Duarte Design is, among other things, they were heavily involved in the design of the presentation Al Gore used in "An Inconvenient Truth." If you’re interested in how to communicate better through presentations, check out their blog slide:ology.)