February 10, 2004

Again With That Word, "Design"

I subscribe to two magazines, The New Yorker, and BusinessWeek. I enjoy BusinessWeek for its clarity of reporting and its breadth of coverage.

This week, however, I find myself seething at BusinessWeek. From an article titled "Designer Cars":

Now, a decade-long drive to close the engineering and quality gap among the world's carmakers has left the companies competing increasingly on, well, looks. "Design is the No. 1 selling point these days..."

Later we're told to "get the proportions and styling right -- an elegantly curved shoulder line or an innovative grille--and you can add up to !% to the sticker price and outsell rivals.

I don't dispute the facts, I dispute the use of the word "design." In part spurred by my recent reading of Henry Dreyfuss, I just wrote this letter to the editor:

Subject: Design Is Not Just Styling

For decades, designers have fought being branded as mere decorators, so it's a shame that BusinessWeek, which sponsors the annual IDSA awards, would equate design with styling ("Designer Cars", February 16, 2004). Design is a complex process that must work from the inside out. Coordinating relationships with marketers, engineers, and customers, while paying attention to external trends, designers strive to create products that are useful, usable, and desirable. To reduce this effort to "looks" does a great disservice to the design profession.

Peter Merholz
Adaptive Path

BusinessWeek's article only bolsters my concerns from a prior post of mine, "That Tricky Word, 'Design'". Generally, BusinessWeek is pretty clued in, and pretty clued in about design. If *they* use the word in this way, what should we expect from the less clueful?

Posted by peterme at 10:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


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