What is design?
The word design is used in so many ways that you begin to wonder if it has any useful meaning at all. All of these may be regarded as acts of design:
• Laying out a magazine ad
• Making an engineering plan for a suspension bridge
• Using A/B testing to improve user response to a website
• Plotting an elaborate trap
• Wireframing user interactions for a mobile app
Creating the graphical look and feel of a mobile app
Planning the features of a product that solves a perceived user problem
Collecting user feedback on a product or service
Preparing architectural plans for a beautiful building
Developing architectural plans for an ugly building
Since folks refer to any of these examples (and many more) as “design,” the term design could be regarded as just a great big basket that holds many things that have no apparent relationship to one another, except for the fact that someone, somewhere calls them design.
Why do people know what an engineer is, but not what a designer is?
As a discipline, engineering is pretty clearly defined, as is an engineer. Engineers do engineering, and to do engineering requires a particular degree, the passing of individual tests, and the obtaining of one or more licenses. Without these, you are not an engineer, and what you do is not really engineering (as commonly understood). Furthermore, the major types of engineering are pretty well established: mechanical, chemical, civil, and electrical, with each having pretty well-established sub-branches.
But design and designers are a different story. There are design degrees, but for most types of design, neither a degree nor a license is required. Architecture is a notable exception, which has the same kind of professional accouterments as engineering. Urban design has some of those accouterments.
Why do people want to become a designer today?
When choosing a design career, one of the first things to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to be a designer?” Everyone has different influences in their life to form their opinions about choosing a career. My advice for young designers is to think about what inspires you into a field of design? Whether you want to be an architect, fashion/jewelry designer, or culinary chef — all these careers require a mindset to enjoy what you do, even though it will require years of hard work, research, and tenacity.