A friend of mine earlier made the comment, “Design’s only purpose is to make money”. Originally I would have just posted a snarky response and been done with it, but this time a nagging suspicion prevented me from pressing the button. If not profit, then what is design’s purpose?
My friend is pragmatic. He’s talking about design that works for a living in the real world, artifacts and messages that are commodities. Are these things beautiful or innovative? Do they subdivide space effectively? Most likely so, but none of that matters unless it makes a difference to the bottom line.
Design is path finding
During my day to day work, I usually think of design as a process. We make things out of the patterns we found while exploring a space of potential solutions. These things are intended for duplication. When I think about design’s purpose, I’m also pragmatic and would state: the purpose of design is to get to the next step.
Design is an ecosystem
Design is for people. People use designs. Profit isn’t the end of the design process, its somewhere closer to the middle. Visual language, conceptual goals and the design process itself are revealed as speculative fiction. Out in the wild, design takes on a life of its own. The street finds its own uses for things.