There are sites, books, feeds, magazines, and movies about “design.” Thousands of people call themselves “designers.”
But have you noticed … “design” never means the same thing?
When I click on some “design” link, I feel like I’m spinning a roulette wheel. Will it be about:

  • Grids and Helvetica?
  • Typography?
  • How to balance trade-offs?
  • Applying engineering capability to a non-engineering problem?
  • Gradients?
  • Producing emotions?
  • Solving a business problem?
  • Posters?
  • Products?

I just saw a cool link on Hacker News.

Screenshot of the color picker

What is it?

  • An interesting implementation because it’s made in HTML5, not Flash.
  • A cool style because it doesn’t look like other pickers.
  • A novel solution to a problem because the large scale gives access to values you can’t reach in a traditional picker.
  • An emotional experience because the immersive colorfield evokes purple twilights and blue-yellow sunrises.

Hacker News played it as an implementation story:

Hacker News story

I tried it as a problem-solution performance story:


What do all these angles have in common?
Design is a big word. It means interacting with trade-offs to realize an intention. That may be abstract, but that’s what it is.
All of us advance the field when we try to nail just what it is that interests us about a particular design. We raise the bar when we resist thinking “design” means something more than exactly that abstraction. There are lots of definitions we haven’t defined yet.