Design is For You

Originally published on 9/10/2017 by It's Your Turn, an unofficial publication of the altMBA alumni.

Design is everywhere.

It’s in the way we order our favorite meal at our favorite local spot.

And it’s in the way the meal is delivered to us.

It’s in our morning routines.

It’s even in our relationships.

Yes, I know, we’ve been trained to think of Design as a word reserved for artists, designers, techies, and people generally more creative than us. And maybe that’s true for some parts of design the vocation (small “d”), but an absolute tragedy if that’s how we think of Design the process (big “D”).

The purpose of Design — wherever it’s found — is to create a solution that matches the problems, priorities, and worldview of an intended audience. Which means Design can be found wherever. So how have we ended up mixing and inter-mixing these separate ideas of design the vocation with Design the process?

Unfortunately, the same establishments that want us to believe “Design” is a word saved only for the professionals also would lead us to believe that Design is a world of subjectivity, and only they are predisposed with the ability to create magic.

Fortunately for us, they’re wrong.

It’s true, Design is subjective. That fact is indisputable in that two people may have entirely different perspectives on the design of a given thing.

But Design is also objective. We find it if we’re paying attention as each of those same two people offer us detail-filled explanations of what is good or is not good design in the thing they’re evaluating. Those explanations are affirmed when other people like them (worldview) see the same design quality they do. And if we believed what they believed, we would see what they see.

Definable. Rational. Measurable. Objective.


Because we can know or uncover the problems, priorities, and worldview of our audience.


Because people who believe what our audience believes agree on the problem. And rational because it solves a problem that our audience believes is worth solving.


Because we can test the match between our solution and our audience’s problems, priorities and worldview when we share our work. Also measurable because we can improve, if only we’re willing to ask and listen. And finally, measurable because remarkable work always produces evangelists - the believers who spread our change.

So, what makes for great Design?

Great Design is found when the solution we build matches the problems, priorities, and worldview of our intended audience in a way that produces raving fans. This works in an expansive project like launching a new industry-changing innovation, and in the simple effort of building a habit for consistently brushing our teeth.

Here’s the catch...

Redefining Design in these terms moves us closer to making a difference, but the real work of difference making can only be done when we act on it. The trick, then, is not found in believing that Design is an art available to all. Nor is it in being born a magician — predisposed to the subjective secret arts. No, the trick is found in the hard work of committing to the process day after day, trusting that the magic will come though we don’t know when.

What is it for? Who is it for? Where does it fit? What doesn’t match?

Over and over and over again, the steady work of building our tribe of raving fans. This is the magic of great Design.