Is Everyone a Designer?

All Are the Designers?

The déjà vu discussion started from a tweet by Jared Spool:

Which led to a fascinating discussion down the line here:

and, more fierce here:

Then I saw another tweet:

And then another by Thomas Wendt:

What’s interesting in the last one is an analogy between ‘chef’ and ‘designer’.

I definitely don’t think anyone who cooks is chef (I bet most of you also don’t).

But is anyone who designs a designer? That’s more like a wordplay than a real question.

Chef and Designer

Is everyone a designer?  That depends on what we mean by ‘design’, which is unfortunately a rather broad concept.

Perhaps the answer can be partially found in the definition.

Dictionary definitions usually try to be as broad as possible in order to cover as much common ground as they can. And they often reflect a statistically significant common understanding or usage. So we may rely on them to elaborate on how a concept is understood or interpreted probabilistically.

According to an Oxford dictionary:

  • Chef is “a professional cook, especially the most senior cook in a restaurant, hotel, etc.
  • Designer is “a person whose job is to decide how things such as clothes, funiture, tools, etc. will look or work by making drawings, plans or patterns.

According to Merriam-Webster:

  • Chef is “a person skilled in food preparation who has charge of the kitchen and kitchen personnel in a large establishment (such as a hotel or restaurant), planning menus, ordering foodstuffs, directing and assisting cooks, and preparing special dishes.
  • Designer is “one who conceives plans” and “one whose work is creating or laying out designs or reproducing designs made by others for products of mechanical, industrial, or practical arts or for architectual structures.

If we look closely, ‘chef’ is defined much narrower and clearer than ‘designer’. The definition of ‘chef’ reflects a statistically common understanding that the concept of ‘chef’ is used rather specifically, in a way that largely disqualify most of us as ‘chef’.

While the definition of ‘designer’ is much trickier. It’s still very broad and there’s no easy criteria for us to determine, in general, whether any one of us can be regarded as ‘designer’.

The Context of Interpretation

The definition of a word is limited by the language itself and the contexts of usage. Both ‘design’ and ‘designer’ are prime examples.

So why we’re likely to agree on the case of ‘chef’ but not necessarily so on that of ‘designer’? I hope the above discussion could provide a clue.

When we say ‘designer’, each one of us could mean very differently, depending on how much broader or narrower we interpret the concept of ‘design’ in our specific context of mentioning. And that interpretation is the key that leads to a yes or no to the question ‘is everyone a designer’.




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