Johnnie Manzari

What is Design?
1 Oct 2012, 8:59pm


Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, was asked by a female friend why someone in New York City would use Uber when taxis were readily available. He replied “Why do you have a Louis Vuitton purse and not keep your things in a paper bag?”

The implication was that products and services are more than simply utilitarian.

In college I took ME115A: Introduction to Human Values in Design. The premise of the course was explained in a single sentence: “Introduces the central philosophy of the product design program, emphasizing the relation between technical and human values, the innovation process, and design methodology.”

To illustrate this point about the “central philosophy” of the product design program, Professor Kelley started the first class by bringing in a dozen or two suitcases. Some were big, some were small. Some were made of leather, some fabric, some plastic. He took one of the large plastic ones and showed it to the class. “This entire suitcase is made from just two pieces of injection molded plastic. It’s the most durable suitcase I have.” He then worked his way through a couple others, explaining when he would use them over a different one. At the end he picked up a small leather portfolio with a large zipper around the edge. “This was hand made for me. I take it into meetings with important clients. I noticed that the size of the briefcase you take to a meeting was inversely proportional to how important you were. The executives were walking in with not much of anything and someone was following behind them with a huge briefcase of papers.”

At the end, he said, “What is design? Design is a point of view. All of these objects are used to hold your possessions but each does it with a distinct point of view.”

Design is a point of view. An opinion about how something should be.


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