What Design Is and Isn’t

Using “design” as a noun always sounds weird to me. As a verb I’m comfortable with it, but as a noun it feels wrong. Like saying “the data are clear” or “Apple are working on a new Mac”. Or those weird people who say “to-mah-toe”.

There’s also a lack of clarity. “Design” is different whether you’re an architect, fashion maven, or “new media” designer, of which there’s an endless number of niches. On any given day I could call myself a resume designer, web designer, graphic designer, logo designer, print designer, or icon designer.

There needs to be a clearer word for what “we”, as web/graphic/logo/print designers do. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. The closest I can get is “media design”, but that sounds dumb.

But what I do have an answer for is what this so-called media design can and can’t do.

  1. It can’t guarantee you a job, but can make you more appreciated. Just like we appreciate nicer cars and appliances, so to do employers appreciate a fresh resume that isn’t a template — whether they consciously acknowledge it or not.
  2. It can make your product or service more appealing, but a crap product is always a crap product at the end of the day.
  3. It can’t guarantee you anything, except knowing that you tried a little harder than most other people.

And that’s it. People come to me all the time looking to dress up what is, effectively, a bad product, to get it to sell. There is a word for that: swindling.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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