A phrase that I used to hear a lot in agency world.

We’ll get a designer on that.

It’s a phrase that simultaneously gratifies and grates for me.

While positively acknowledging the power of “design”, it usually makes an assumption — and presents that assumption — that design is just the work of one person, someone towards the end of the conveyor belt, who will “pretty it up”.

Feed the stuff into the person who will then lay it out, choose the right colours and fonts and Bob’s Your Uncle is probably a tagline that catches your eye.

Another phrase I used to hear in client meetings.

Our designers will make it look great.

Yes. Our designers will. And I’d be confident my colleagues will indeed make it great.

But design is not just the designers in that person’s mind.

Designers don’t just make things great by making things pretty.

Like Alan Buckley’s commitment to pass-and-move football, I have a work belief that is similarly immovable: Design isn’t the construct of one approach, one theory, one person, and — most importantly — one role. Design is the always result of many of those.

Design is essentially the understanding of structures, the evaluation and manipulation of materials to a defined end/result.

Take a house.

Off the top of my head: The land surveyors. The architects. A structural engineer. What type of bricks. Mapping out where the sewerage lines go. The plumber. The electrician. The plasterer. Then whoever works out whatever furnishings to put in the house. All of those, and more, contribute to make a home together.

All designers in my book.

Take an ad.

Again, off the top of my head: Start with some sort of marketing manager “client side” who has had to design both their budget and strategy to commission the work, and work your way through the “creative process” until you’ve see that ad pasted up as a 48-sheet in a prominent position you’ll drive past, hear as a radio ad on the drive home, and catch in the ad break of the Saturday night TV show you and your family watch together. Your kids turn to you and say “Dad. We want to go on a sunny holiday this year.” You pick up the phone, ring what is probably a call centre, who talk to you in a tone and with questions that have been designed.

The whole thing: Designed.

I could keep going on with examples, but I hope you get the idea.

Design is a team of people working together to make a thing. They bring their specialist design skills to the work.

Each uses research, evaluation, and then proposes a design solution through their eyes.

Each of those people brings their design strengths to the table, adding into everyone else’s design focus.

That is their responsibility into the overall design. That is design.

There may be someone who can “do pretty design”. But it is never about an individual. Design isn’t about an individual ego. It’s about what the team of people working together do. No one person can ever claim the glory.

Design is the team’s work.

Design is teamwork.

ps, if you do want it to be pretty? Get a visual designer on that, maybe a graphic designer. Thank me later.

Originally published at www.ermlikeyeah.com on September 14, 2015.

Written by

Independent strategist, designer and team builder. Previously: Agency land big cheese; Senior designer at HMRC, DWP, and NHS Jobs; Design lead on #NHSbeta.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store