How Design Influences Our Lives

  • Design encompasses everything from media we consume to the devices on which we consume it.
  • Good design taps into our behavioral tendencies and reflects our needs.
  • Design can evoke strong emotions and enable communication across different groups of people.

From the clothes you are wearing to the device you’re using to browse the Internet to this very website, design is everywhere. Sometimes, it’s overt, such as when we look at posters and logos, but usually, it’s so integrated into our lives that we don’t give it a second thought. But what would our world be like without these designs, especially during the past century? How much of our perception is guided by the designs that surround us?

Design reflects and shapes our behavior.

Ever paid close attention to how our smartphones and tablets are designed? How do you tend to type on them — with your index finger or your thumb? This simple behavior is affected by the design of the product, and how we tend to type influences future designs. In time, we become so used to this modality that we instinctively apply it to new technologies.

Design also guides our basic navigation and movement. Consider how crowds move in an open space versus down a hallway. Different architectural features and civic engineering affect our perceptions as we move through public and private spaces. For example, a poorly designed public space can cause distress and even accidents, while a well-designed one leads to better crowd control.

Design guides our emotions.

Research has shown that colors and shapes evoke specific emotions. Imagine a spa with soothing pastel hues and gentle curves, compared to a gym with powerful shades of red and blue and strong angles. Think about logos such as Nike’s, which communicates speed and grace, versus Coca-Cola’s whimsical typeface and vibrant red.

These are all deliberate design choices that evoke certain moods. These emotional effects help us feel more connected to a brand or product. While we might advise each other not to judge a book by its cover, most of us do — which is why graphic designers devote so much time to creating a compelling cover image. Emotional, thought-provoking design grabs our attention and takes us on an emotional journey.

Design allows us to communicate.

The letters you are currently reading are all products of design. Not only is the typeface an example of design, but the symbols themselves are designs that we have used for millennia. We’re surrounded by communicative symbols, such as the hashtag sign (aka the pound sign), the equal sign, and the “@“ sign. Design represents a shared understanding that enables us to communicate effectively. How we design and perceive our worlds also impacts our communication.

A designer created the garments you wear, then you design an outfit that expresses your personality. The design of apps, websites, and magazines are all created to give readers a user-friendly experience, but the core purpose is communication: to sell a product, to share a story, to connect us to others.

Wrapping Up

Design encompasses almost every aspect of our lives. Without it, we’d rely upon spoken language, disorganized movement, and mundane experiences. Good designers are able to cross boundaries, communicate vast amounts of information, and provoke emotion. They give us the means to stay connected and productive in a chaotic world.