Where does true design live? A confession

It's taken me a long time to percolate through this. I have really been thinking about where the true essence of design lives. I don't mean the creativity of the designer, or the co-ordination of materials and finishes. I mean, what makes each person receptive to one particular design or another?

I recently had a client tell me that he's gone to a few different designers and everyone seems has a different opinion, so he told me that there is no one set way to do things. It's not that one design was better than the other, or one designer had anything new to offer, but he saw in himself the reality that he just didn't have an opinion.

He's right. Design is subjective. It's clearer to me know than before that there is a set of rules that the viewer has on what the see. Love or hate it, design can be wonderful or fall flat on it's ass. Now, I've submitted to design contests before, unsuccessfully and successfully, and I have a huge list of ideas I'd like to try. But design isn't sold on an idea or a concept, it's built from it. So if the design is built from the ideas in my head, does the user, or rather potential client, follow my rationalization of the end design production?

I recent had the opportunity to explore this idea recently at the Showtime House in New York. Some fab East Coast Int. Designers that I've never heard of created some beautiful spaces from some TV shows I'd also never heard of (Canadian TV is over edited). The whole thing was disjointed and disgustingly over the top. The spaces were okay, but all that money and time didn't make sense. I just didn't get it. Then I had a moment of self-realization... as I was about to do a design presentation of my concept and design to some more people I had never heard of and they had never heard of me, this could happen to me because they might not get it. And they didn't.

Judgements are a funny thing. We make them all the time and we don't even know it. We judge a show or film we've watched, some woman walking by in SoHo with her skirt stuck in her underwear, someone who speaks with an accent that we can't quite understand, and, yes, someones personal space. It's odd, though, we always try to soften others judgments with our insecurity and making statements like "don't mind the mess" because we know we are being judged.

But the truth of the matter is, if you designed it you should be proud if it, regardless of the judgement. Design isn't about pretty things and good concepts, because if it doesn't function then it's lost it's form. One of my favorite phrases, just to put it into context, is "I just know how to drive the bus, I don't know how to get were you need to go. The client holds the map."

It's not dead, Mr. Stark, design lives in the user.

Note: If you have an idea where your designs might live, feel free to comment or explore it.