Design can include lots of things, from graphics and illustration to art that you would find in a famous museum.
It's easy to forget it's also boring, everyday stuff, like your comb or toothbrush.
Buildings and other man-made spaces are the product of design, too.
Even the things we use to get around—cars, bikes, buses, and everything in between—could be considered their own form of design.
Design isn't always pretty, ugly, or even interesting at all. Sometimes it's practical, or so commonplace that you don't really notice it.
Making an effort to be more aware of design can help you see it in unexpected places. It can also help you see past appearances—to what really makes a design successful, useful, or valuable.
Watch the video learn more about seeing design.
Every part of the man-made world was designed with a specific purpose in mind. Learning to look at these things with curiosity can help you appreciate the jobs they do.
It can also help you see the beauty and value in things we normally take for granted. For example, when was the last time you looked—really looked—at a fork?
Here's another example. Picture a basic coffee cup. It's designed to stay sealed, hold liquid, and protect your hand from heat.
Next, imagine an entire coffee shop. Inside, it has its own unique style and decor.
Outside, there's a sign or logo that advertises the business.
Beyond that, there's the building itself, the sidewalk, the parking lot, and even landscaping. None of this exists by accident; it's all intentional. In other words, every bit of it was designed to provide a certain service or experience, from the welcoming exterior to the eye-catching color scheme.
Once you start noticing these things, you might notice something else: You have opinions about them. For instance, most of us know what it's like to get stuck in a poorly designed parking lot, or how annoying it is when your coffee cup leaks or spills.
These are basically failures of design—things that frustrate or disappoint us, or don't work the way that they're supposed to.
The key to understanding this type of failure is to ask yourself, "Where did the design go wrong?" Look closer, and you can usually find the answer.
Take a chair, for instance. It seems simple, but there's a lot that goes into making this design successful. The seat supports your body weight, while the backrest makes it possible to sit and lean back comfortably. It has four solid legs, and doesn't tip over (at least not easily).
Start playing with these basic details, and you get mixed results. What looks cool, unique, or interesting doesn't always work well in real life.
Thinking hard about a design—and what it was meant to do—can help you measure how successful it really is. It can also give you a place to start talking about design, so you can feel more confident sharing your opinion.
Designed things aren't just for the people who make them; they’re ultimately for the people who use them. That's why your experiences with design are so important.
Any time you use something that features some form of design, it should leave you feeling satisfied—with the way it works, the way it looks, or both.
In short, you deserve good design, no matter who you are or what you do.
Thinking about design as something that actually affects you can change the way you look at the world.
It’s part of almost everything we see and do, from the spaces around us to the little things that we can't live without.