Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams, and sewing patterns). Design has different connotations in different fields. In some cases, the direct construction of an object (as in pottery, engineering, management, coding, and graphic design) is also considered to use design thinking.

Designing often necessitates considering the aesthetic, functional, economic, and sociopolitical dimensions of both the design object and design process. It may involve considerable research, thought, modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design. Meanwhile, diverse kinds of objects may be designed, including clothing, graphical user interfaces, skyscrapers, corporate identities, business processes, and even methods or processes of designing.

Thus “design” may be a substantive referring to a categorical abstraction of a created thing or things (the design of something), or a verb for the process of creation as is made clear by grammatical context.

Design education is the teaching of theory and application in the design of products, services and environments. It encompasses various disciplines of design, such as architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, user interface design, web design, packaging design, industrial design, fashion design, information design, interior design, sustainable design, transgenerational design, and universal design. The values and attitudes which underlie modern design schools differ among the different design schools.

Design is about problem solving. Design education is learning how to apply practical methods, prior knowledge, and natural talent to solve new problems.

Having a complete design education can lead to professions such as architect, graphic designer, UX designer, creative director, art director, content strategist, web designer, web developer, illustrator, information architect, interior designer, visual designer, service designer, UI designer and wireframe architect.

Design and art

The boundaries between art and design are blurred, largely due to a range of applications both for the term ‘art’ and the term ‘design’. Applied arts has been used as an umbrella term to define fields of industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, etc. The term ‘decorative arts’ is a traditional term used in historical discourses to describe craft objects, and also sits within the umbrella of applied arts. In graphic arts (2D image making that ranges from photography to illustration), the distinction is often made between fine art and commercial art, based on the context within which the work is produced and how it is traded.

To a degree, some methods for creating work, such as employing intuition, are shared across the disciplines within the applied arts and fine art. Mark Getlein, writer, suggests the principles of design are “almost instinctive”, “built-in”, “natural”, and part of “our sense of ‘rightness’.”However, the intended application and context of the resulting works will vary greatly.

Design and engineering

In engineering, design is a component of the engineering process. Many overlapping methods and processes can be seen when comparing Product design, Industrial design and Engineering. The American Heritage Dictionary defines design as: “To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent,” and “To formulate a plan”, and defines engineering as: “The application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.”. Both are forms of problem-solving with a defined distinction being the application of “scientific and mathematical principles”. The increasingly scientific focus of engineering in practice, however, has raised the importance of new more “human-centered” fields of design. How much science is applied in a design is a question of what is considered “science”. Along with the question of what is considered science, there is social science versus natural science. Scientists at Xerox PARC made the distinction of design versus engineering at “moving minds” versus “moving atoms” (probably in contradiction to the origin of term “engineering – engineer” from Latin “in genio” in meaning of a “genius” what assumes existence of a “mind” not of an “atom”).

Design and production

The relationship between design and production is one of planning and executing. In theory, the plan should anticipate and compensate for potential problems in the execution process. Design involves problem-solving and creativity. In contrast, production involves a routine or pre-planned process. A design may also be a mere plan that does not include a production or engineering processes although a working knowledge of such processes is usually expected of designers. In some cases, it may be unnecessary or impractical to expect a designer with a broad multidisciplinary knowledge required for such designs to also have a detailed specialized knowledge of how to produce the product.

Design and production are intertwined in many creative professional careers, meaning problem-solving is part of execution and the reverse. As the cost of rearrangement increases, the need for separating design from production increases as well. For example, a high-budget project, such as a skyscraper, requires separating (design) architecture from (production) construction. A Low-budget project, such as a locally printed office party invitation flyer, can be rearranged and printed dozens of times at the low cost of a few sheets of paper, a few drops of ink, and less than one hour’s pay of a desktop publisher.

This is not to say that production never involves problem-solving or creativity, nor that design always involves creativity. Designs are rarely perfect and are sometimes repetitive. The imperfection of a design may task a production position (e.g. production artist, construction worker) with utilizing creativity or problem-solving skills to compensate for what was overlooked in the design process. Likewise, a design may be a simple repetition (copy) of a known pre-existing solution, requiring minimal, if any, creativity or problem-solving skills from the designer.

Process design

“Process design” refers to the planning of routine steps of a process aside from the expected result. Processes (in general) are treated as a product of design, not the method of design. The term originated with the industrial designing of chemical processes. With the increasing complexities of the information age, consultants and executives have found the term useful to describe the design of business processes as well as manufacturing processes.