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Toward a definition for Design (part one)

The present piece is part of a series of articles that summarize the efforts of a university professor to provide the necessary frameworks for designing students' early years.

5 Min Read

The present piece is part of a series of articles that summarize the efforts of a university professor to provide the necessary frameworks for designing students' early years.

Establishing the boundaries defining a given discipline is rare among authors; these blurred lines could explain the existence of various schools of thought and movements.

Unlike some dimensions of knowledge, Design is a realm of complexity that defies simple structural paradigms. The discourse on its boundaries, a frequent topic in academic circles and university degree programs, presents a stimulating challenge for first-year students.

As a seasoned design educator in Chile focusing on Game Design, this author brings a wealth of experience and knowledge. 

Combining insights from other Design professionals and this article's writer's extensive experience in the higher educational field, the proposed new definition of Design effectively conveys the essence of Design as a discipline to first-year college students, instilling confidence in the information presented.

The following discourse presented by combining several articles will follow the same topic structure used during a first-year's lectures in their first semester. These matters are:

  • The Industrial Revolution and its role in the emergence of Design as a discipline. A contrast between Design's emergence and the existing discipline of architecture should refine potential confusion.

  • An overview of four major design trends presents the same number of mental approximations or lenses through which the designers can guide their design process.

  • The course has an operational definition built on a selection of parts from three professional designers' quotes.

  • Five of Dieter Rams' "Ten Principles of Good Design" are presented. These principles, carefully selected for their direct relevance to Game Design, are not just theoretical concepts but practical guidelines that can be applied in future design projects, illustrating the practicality of the information. 

  • The author will present his model, characterizing the so-called "Four Keys of Design" as the final subject of this article.

The closing statements of these articles summarize and conclude the five topics mentioned above, providing a comprehensive overview of the key points discussed.

Before diving into the role of the Industrial Revolution in the conformation of the design domain, the academic writing of this piece must manifest two drawbacks to the presented proposal.

First, empirical data must support the author's claims about the usefulness of the information presented for design students or professionals and the writer's anecdotal accounts. However, the aforementioned empirical data collection still needs to be completed.

Second, it is essential to note that the topics in this article come from the original course, bits of knowledge made into simplified classes. This simplification results from the didactical strategy used by the academic to facilitate the understanding of the primary audience: first-year students. 

The reader can rest assured that the information is digestible and manageable.

The Industrial Revolution: Starting point for the Design discipline

This section only presents an assessment of the production and economic-related transformation of the Industrial Revolution for brevity reasons.

The appearance of mass serialized production resulted from the invention of specialized machines, often powered by steam engines, a happenstance of the nineteenth century. 

A well-known fact is that a single craftsman was required to construct a determined good before the steam age. While the prior statement remains true today, separating tasks allowed for more efficient processes and cheaper products that do not need experienced artisans, a familiar occurrence nowadays. 

A lesser-known effect on the production process is the decentralization of the planning and crafting procedures. From the eighteenth century onwards, the people accountable for the conceptualization of a product could live in the farthest part of the world compared to those who built the mentioned goods.

What specific and concretete "tool" posibilize this descentralization? The answer lay in the methodologies of a different existing field of knowledge: architecture.

Architecture's area of interest and specific results, delimited by this discipline primarily as a product, required the coordinated efforts of many people over long periods. Picture one of the most recognizable pre-nineteenth-century buildings: the cathedral.

A cathedral needed the agreement of several guilds, each composed of many artisans, over a long period during which many people working on the project would die.

While constructing a building, a practical tool allowed different people from different periods to collaborate on the same project: the construction blueprints or plans.

During the Industrial Revolution, similar plans allowed people from different countries to participate in the same project on a much smaller scale than a cathedral. These new blueprints soon developed proprietary conventions and nuances, such as standardized measurement units and materials iconography. These practices or similar ones remain a staple of the design process.

First-year students' instructors must highlight the importance of designers' being well-versed in the productive aspects of the goods they plan to produce. 

Regarding the specifics of Game Designers' assignments, these professionals need to understand how to structure systems and the potential shortcomings of determined programming language or game engines regarding implementing such systems, all while keeping up with the intricacies of the narrative and audiovisual aspects. 

Please, hypothetical Game Design professor, remember to teach these aspiring professionals how to estimate production times and budget allocation roughly by user tastes and profitable market trends. It is not a difficult task; will this hypothetical teacher agree?

This simple pedagogical labor of teaching how the modern game design process operates resulted from the appearance of specialized machines and steam engines over one hundred and fifty years ago.

As a closure to this section, this author provides a fun fact about Game Design labor that reflects this blueprint's related origin: the Game Designer's role in Japan is called a Game Planner. This reality sometimes confuses Western game professionals who mistake this role for that of Game Producers.

With the last paragraph anecdote, these first articles finish. The following article reviews the following two topics: 

  • Four major design trends impact how a designer faces a project's starting point. 

  • The first-year operational definition of the Design discipline is based on the perspectives of three professional designers.

Until next time, this author wishes the reader good luck and Godspeed.

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