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The true meaning of Design.

We can start by saying that everything in life has a beginning, and it's not uncommon that we often ask ourselves why this or that exists. So yes, design also has a beginning, a purpose, a history.

And, having stated this, we can ask ourselves two very important questions: What is Design and why does it exist?
It´s a common misconception that design is connected only to appearance - to that which is aesthetic - and this is totally untrue. A very simple way of helping us to answer this question of what design is and what it is for, is to contextualize ourselves in a time and a place.

Going back in time, specifically to the Stone Age, there were many adversities and obstacles that limited a normal and easy life of the pre historic man, one of the most important being how to hunt effectively.


Hunting was one of the fundamental activities of that era, for it was one of the main sources of food, which, aside a constant access to a clean source of water, was essential for their survival.

But it was difficult to hunt quickly and effectively. The days went by and they were filled only by hunger. To solve this problem, they started crafting weapons capable of hitting and annihilating their prey more effectively, as to eat them later. These were times in which survival was determined by every action. Fail to hunt, could be fatal to the whole tribe.

Therefore, the challenge in front of them was "Hunt! How are we going to hunt more effectively?" The answer? "With Spears!" (after all, they were not as primitive as people think).

They used the materials they had at hand such as bones, stones, and bits of trees that they acquired. There were several attempts, several iterations, over the base idea on how to make it work. Until they finally succeeded and created the first ever functional spear!


But, it does not stop here. As we move through history, we see new challenges arise constantly. After the hunt, came the way they ate (they used their hands, picking the meat, piece by piece, with their fingers). So, they searched for a more "hygienic" way of eating, to pick the meat out of the bones, to cut the animals and distribute the food, and so, utensils were born. Namely knives to cut and arrange the meat, remove the hair of mammals and scales of fish, as to turn the pieces edible and more enjoyable.

These examples from our violent pre historic days, serve as perfect examples to answer why Design exists - to serve an Objective and solve a Problem.

All Design is born to achieve an objective, and is defined by how we solve the problem that inhibits us from reaching that objective. Design arises from a problem or need (hunting effectively) that we try to solve or a process that we have to optimize to achieve a specific goal (improve the ability to manage the meat gathered).
Pre historic man faced these challenges, but mankind faced many challenges since then, and many more in the present and in the future. In all, Design has a part in solving them.

And so... although in a simplistic way, in these few lines, I tried to convey the true history of Design, and to serve as a launching platform to later develop on these subject. Because, most certainly, design does not end here.

Design, by itself and how I perceive it, is complex, layered, and pervasive in our everyday lives.
But, for now we will go no further...until a next time =)


Liliana Faustino

Graphic Designer at Lookatitude.I promise to write about the truth of Graphic Design and nothing else but the truth.

Senhora da Hora

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