The Importance of Design
(Mississippi Business Journal online edition)
June 14, 2019
What do the television shows Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, Masters of Flip and Fixer Upper have in common?
Answer: They are the most watched home decorator shows of all time.
Watch any of those shows, or any similar shows on television, and you’re likely to hear the term “design” used quite a bit. Design, which is the process of creating something based on a plan, is becoming an in-thing. It’s about time. What was once available to only those who could afford architects has now come to us mortal souls.
There is no longer any doubt about it. Design, has finally become regarded as the important aspect of life that it is. I know this because CBS Sunday Morning, my favorite television program, has had an annual design show each year for the past few years. I also know this because schools of design are popping up all over the place. In most cases, these schools are tied in with a school of art or architecture.
Good design can sometimes be so subtle it’s hardly noticed. When traffic flows smoothly, for example, it is taken for granted. But let the merge lane be too short or the signage too confusing, and bad design is evident in all its ugly glory. Traffic circles are a good example. If they work, then it is good design; if they do not, then it is a bad design.
Although design is ubiquitous, it is in our homes where we can really appreciate it, perhaps because we spend so much time there. I live in a house that was built in 1959. It was designed for 1959. It has a formal living room, for example. It also has a hot water at the opposite end of the house from the bathrooms. I have not done anything about having to wait an extra minute for hot water in the bathroom, but the formal living room has been opened up by removing most of a wall and installing a new countertop and bar. Houses are good examples of the effect on design and vice versa because our living spaces seem to be constantly evolving. Master bedrooms are huge in most new houses, and master bathrooms nowadays have become something that the Roman rulers would be envious of.
Interior design is all the rage these days. In case you have not noticed, just turn on the television and see how many so-called makeover programs are on the schedule. And let us not forget feng shui. Feng means wind, and Shui means water in Chinese. The two things affect the weather and weather affects our energy. Thus, where a house is located and the direction it faces can impact our rhythm and energy. If the house is in alignment or in rhythm with the landscape, a good healthy life force is created. Consultants are now available to design a house using these principles.
Design continually affects the devices and appliances we use in our houses. From vacuum cleaners to washers and dryers, there seems to be a constant redesign to make things better or maybe more in tune with the times. Even dust rags and paper towels are part of the process. There is now a plastic tub of Clorox cleaning rags for the counter and something called Swifters for those hard to get to places where dust hides.
One wonders whether older was better. Seaside, Florida has a motto that reads, “The New Town. The Old Ways.” New urbanism is about designing communities to be walkable and diverse. Indeed the charter of charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism states in part, “…urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”
Design principles, especially residential ones, have even become universal. I know that because I discovered the Universal Design Project. Its website, universaldesign.org, states that America has a housing problem. It also offers a solution, as follows:
“There aren’t enough universally accessible options. We envision a world where everyone has a functional and affordable place to live. But before that can happen, those places have to be designed.” The solution is to facilitate collaboration between design professionals (e.g., residential architects, interior designers), health professionals (e.g. occupational therapists, rehabilitation engineers, environmental gerontologists), and our advisory group of individuals who have life experience with disability. The purpose of doing so is to include all the necessary perspectives in discussions about design decisions.”
Perhaps it is time we appreciate and understand more the role that design plays in our lives and the contributions of designers, whether they be architects, engineers, artists or others.