Short and sweet: succinct definitions of design

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I wrote my own shortest definition of design as a personal challenge to express the term in a manner that was brief, robust and circumspect. The result (discussed elsewhere in this blog):

"Design is creation for reproduction."

Another short definition that I greatly admire was sent to me by Richard Thomas, a colleague at the Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity. Ricky said:

"Design is the process of initiating and representing relationships."

Doug Chapman, whom I know as an actor, environmentalist, former director of research at William McDonough + Partners, and graduate of the Institute without Boundaries program I directed until 2003, recently offered this very concise statement:

"Design is the line between idea and result."

In Toothpicks and Logos: Design in Everyday Life (2002, Oxford University Press), John J. Heskett highlights the multivalent senses of the word "design" by offering and analyzing a bewildering sentence:

"Design is to design a design to produce a design."

"Design," says Heskett, "has splintered into ever-greater subdivisions of practice without any overarching concept or organization, and can be appropriated by anyone."

While I don't consider this situation to be alarming, I do believe in this time of great change and great opportunity that practitioners and theorists of contemporary design will benefit by having a sense of what they have in common with those flying the same colours.