Design Strategies: Beyond Aesthetics and Function

by Eric Tsai

I read a lot of business related blogs and one of my favor blog is Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World. Typically he blogs about business, startups, entrepreneurship, etc however; last week he had an interview with Hartmut Esslinger, the founder of frog design, a design firm I highly respect and keep my tabs on.

I couldn’t agree more with what Hartmut’s view on design:

Design” isn’t a clear-cut talent profession, but one of coordination and catalyst between human needs, science and technology, business and economy, as well as sociology and ecology. The artistic talent required is more of an enabler at the end of rational and emotional analysis as well as strategic conceptualization. Therefore, it is vital to learn and study as much as possible especially about business, technology and human nature. In the end, there are flavors in design which are more aesthetic—see New York Times “Style Magazine”—but design is only relevant when it improves human lives by appealing both to the mind and the heart.


Context of Design

The important aspect of design isn’t really about the visual enablement, but the the context of the experience, strategies and economy of scale.  I started out my career as a designer and as I progress into different management positions, I’ve come to realize the importance of knowledge, data, business and technology.

Designer chases after the end result, the goal to satisfy as much requirements as possible.  My art professor in college once told me that “art is different, it kind of just sits there on the wall and does nothing. but design must do something even though both are up to the interpreters.”

I was producing conceptual art and I couldn’t care if people understood the meaning of my art, instead I focus on my emotions.

When I started designing, I quickly realized that design has  boundaries but no rules.  There are set requirements but ultimately you could do whatever you want.  The catch is that innovation will come at a price that you are willing to pay: your design may not sell, could have major flaws over time, or get you fired from you job.  Whatever those reasons may be, they become fear.  And fear is what kills creativity, it’s the unspoken corporate rule that slowly deteriorates innovation.

Design is beyond just form and function, it’s solving and improving within a set discipline.  Design is essential from architecture, clothing, automobile, highways, food, technology, right down to your body.  By you working out you’re trying to shape your body, creating a form that you want to match your goal – to be fit or to look a certain way.  Before you start working out you must research and learn about your body and the exercise you’re going to need to achieve your goal.  Then you execute and overtime learn the optimal training routines to reach the condition you targeted.

Moving forward design will become more important as the convergence of technology continues to transform the way we live.  With every new scientific discovery design will be one of the key success drivers for businesses to innovate and rethink our next decision.  Through iterations, design will improve over time adpating to the humanistic and cultural element of our society.