What Does Design Mean To You?

Creative legends give their definitions

One thing’s for sure, design is a lot more than just looking great. It should function smoothly and enhance an environment; it should be sustainable and leave a light footprint on the Earth; and the best examples should shape culture and find their place in history. 

Versailles Chandelier Studio BOUROULLEC

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, lighting and furniture designers 
“(Our kind of design) is different from graphic design, where you draw on your computer, you print, and it’s done. Designing objects is much more difficult, it is a team project. You have to be able to listen, to communicate with others. It’s a very complex process to control all factors, size of the company, etc. You have to learn about so many different processes to produce things, different materials for a global market.” 

The Gabriel Chandelier, designed by the Bouroullec brothers, hangs above the public entrance in the Palace of Versailles. At a height of 12m, and with 800 Swarovski crystal modules threaded around a stainless steel skeleton containing an LED system, it is the first contemporary artwork ever to grace this 17th-century landmark, perfectly linking present with past.

We asked people to define what design means to them, and then we added some thought-provoking definitions from legends whose designs have left an indelible mark on the world, making it a better place for posterity. 

Steve Jobs (1955–2011) 
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. 

Valeria Vantaggi, journalist at VanityFair.it 
“Everything is about design. There’s good design and bad design. For me, design is the point at which technology and aesthetics, functionality and beauty, reason and emotion, meet. The best design is found in the convergence of these points.” 

Alessandro Moggi, photographer 
“For me, design is the point where form and function come together with a harmony that makes it a pleasure to use the item. This pleasure transcends the reasons that led to its creation, turning it into a cultural symbol of an era.” 

Giulio, Milan commuter 
“It’s style—as in the form and the shape of a product.” 

Paul Rand, designer (1914–1996) 
“Good design doesn’t date. Bad design does.” 

Jim Henson, puppeteer (1936–1990) 
“Simple is good.” 

Donna Karan, fashion designer 
“Design is constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable.” 

Greg Lynn, architect 
“Design is not about the first mark on the blank sheet of paper. I can’t get started until I can formulate a problem that I want to solve. Otherwise it’s just a styling exercise. Hanging a sheet of crystals on fibers instead of hanging them from a frame, or gathering a cluster of crystals on your finger rather than making a band with a setting—these are both examples of starting with a problem rather than just starting to make shapes.” 

Stefano Curto, artist 
“Design is the art of combining the aesthetic and the functional.” 

Coco Chanel, couturier (1883–1971) 
“Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” 

Charles Eames, architect (1907–1978) 
“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.” 

Rana and Ramine Sahrai, carpet design, Sahrai Milano 
“We think of design as the aesthetic analysis of shape, color and texture, which leads to the creation of unique pieces. These are both useful and sophisticated, with an inherent value that makes them timeless. In fact, design is still, today, inspired by the past.” 

Dieter Ramms, industrial engineer 
“Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.”