I really enjoyed this episode of The Way of Product Design, which featured my good friend Ben Crabtree.
The conversation centered around 2 questions:
1. How is product design different from art or engineering?
2. How does one begin to apply Design to a customer or business problem?
Ben defines Design as "Creativity applied to solve a functional problem with aesthetics as a core synergistic component. A combination of form and function.", while Art is "Creativity applied to purely expressing thoughts and feelings through aesthetics."
This definition helped to solidify a model that I've had regarding keeping my own biases out of product design. I would add to Ben's definition that art is "creativity applied to purely expressing **one's own** thoughts and feelings through aesthetics."
Art is heavily biased, and tells some kind of story about its author to evoke thoughts and feelings in their viewers. But the thing about art is that it can also be interpreted widely and subjectively. Art may evoke general themes or feelings, or produce a general consensus, but its purpose is not to fix functional problems.
As product designers we join our unique skills and perspectives together with the unique perspectives of our customers to craft and build a product which evokes a feeling of trust in our users and relates a true story about how our product will solve their problem. The creation of this type of product relies on the synthesis of perspectives from customer research and good design practice, as well as art and engineering theory.
I won't spend too much time on the 2nd question, but I thought Ben's "5 questions to start any product design project" were great as well:
1. What is the customer/business trying to do?
2. What information and functionality will be required to accomplish those todos?
3. How will that information be organized at an app level/site/web app?
4. How will that information be organized at a micro (or page) level?
5. How will I use aesthetics to synergistically support the consumption, manipulation, transformation of that information to accomplish the todos of the business?