A designed object is a blueprint or design for the structure or development of an object, or for the efficient performance of some process or activity, or the outcome of that design or blueprint in the form of some finished product, machine or service. The verb to designed implies the act of developing or building a designed object. Design is used also to mean producing by means of a design, manipulate (in the arts) or set out in practice some physical conditions that are necessary for some effect. The idea of design dates back to the earliest recorded years, when man first organized things into meaningful and useful relationships, and used objects primarily as tools or executors of his will. Thus, objects were designed to work together and complement one another.
A product designed in this way satisfies specific functional, material and aesthetic needs, in that it meets the expectations of the users, and can be employed to satisfy recognized needs or perceived wants. But it must also be conceived as meeting existing and anticipated needs or desires, that is, it must meet what the user wants, not what the manufacturer thinks the user wants. In conceptualizing an object, we do so by considering each attribute of the object as unique, establishing a priority order of importance, identifying the effects of changes on other attributes, determining how changes affect the user’s ability to perform a range of standard or custom tasks, and designing a system that meets these requirements. Crucial design goals must be specified, and these must be understood, measured, analyzed and adjusted in a way that meets the unique requirements of each individual case. Designers use multiple techniques and methods, such as drawing-line and 3-D computer drafting, blueprinting, computer-aided design (CAD) and software engineering, to formulate the design concepts that ultimately shape the physical product.
Most products that are designed are produced in factories and marketed as a ready-made structure or component, assembled according to the specifications supplied by the customer. But this is not a rational model of the design process. Rather, it is a sequence of events leading up to the design process. The design process is a targeted sequence of activities that have a logical cause, a goal and a time limit. In this case, the logical cause is the end result sought by the designer. The goal is an objective in space-time, which is determined by the customers and validated by the designer.
A series of actions, often referred to as sequence diagrams, are then drawn to show the progression of the sequence of activities. These sequences are usually drawn for engineering design purposes and applied arts research purposes. They provide a visual example to show how a particular set of processes is interconnected in a way that brings about the desired result. When seen in this manner, the designer can easily see which steps are necessary to achieve the target outcome, and in what order. A sequential diagram is therefore a useful tool for helping people in planning their design process. They are therefore used in a wide variety of circumstances where people engage in applied and analytical activities, such as research, the design process or manufacturing.
Often when people think of applying science or engineering design to their own work, they tend to imagine a rational model in which the purpose of the designer is simply to achieve a goal. This is in fact very different from the sequential diagrams used in engineering design. Rational models in engineering design are typically ‘statically’ structured, with one goal in mind from the very start. The rational model thus involves a careful balance between what is desired from the outcome, and the way in which it will actually come to pass. In contrast, the sequential diagrams involve the designer taking into account the relationships among the different activities that go towards achieving a goal and deciding which of these activities is most efficient.
The key difference between rational models and sequential diagrams lies in the fact that in the former, the designer has to use his or her entire skill set to achieve the goal. In the latter, only the specific skills needed for the solution stage of the graphic design process need to be employed. A good designer thus has to be aware of the interrelationships among his or her activities, and make strategic decisions about which ones are most efficient for achieving a particular goal. In short, graphic designers must work through the entire design process as if the goal were already accomplished. In this way, successful designers are able to maximize the full benefits of their skill set, rather than simply floundering around in a vacuum.