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What do we mean by design?

What comes to mind when you think of design? For many people, the word conjures up thoughts of creativity, products, architecture, graphics, or simply the way something looks or functions. These are all valid responses, and in some ways capture what we might class as traditional forms of design. Today the practice of design regularly extends beyond these boundaries to encompass broader techniques, methods and approaches. When we talk about design in the field of innovation our focus is more on what we might call ‘strategic design’. As the diagram below illustrates, design can function at multiple levels and in different ways. Design professor Richard Buchanan captured his thinking into these ‘four orders or design’ illustrating how design as a discipline has moved from the traditional concept of the visual or tangible artefact through to orchestrating interactions and experiences, and to transforming systems.
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