Have been asking myself a lot about this lately - what is design?
I believe design is to create something with intent, and purpose. For example, a rock is not designed. It's shape or color was never created with intent. It was merely a result of its surrounding environment.
I would argue an animal, a cow for example, is designed. As it has evolved over the millennia with the intent of adapting, surviving, and passing on its genes.
To design something is to create it with intent. In the world of product design, I would say thats the process of surfacing a problem, and creating a solution to solve that very problem.
I believe this process have a lot of similarities to the process of evolution.
This is why I think a lot of times we find the answers to some of our toughest problems in nature, as evolution is probably by far one of the most rigorous design processes out there. Think about it, using the cow example from earlier, it has evolved for thousands if not millions of years. As it’s environment changes over time, cow as a specie must learn (research) about its surroundings and find the best to adapt to it (iterate), with the intent of surviving long enough before passing on its genes.
Think about how many problems a cow had to face as it evolved. How to feed itself, how to protect itself from predators, how to adapt to environmental changes. Yet the fact they are still around today shows that it has successfully solved those problems. In other words, it went through the design process as a species, and lives on as a successful “product”.
And for those who have failed to go through this design process of nature, the consequence is a little more dire than a unsuccessful product launch or a tanking metric. The very survival of that particular specie is on the line, as told by the fossils of ancient animals and plants.
So design is not some magic designers sprinkle on a product document. It’s a pretty straight forward process that involves identifying a problem, iterating through solutions, testing them against the real world, and finally coming to the results that solves that problem. It’s a process that’s all around us. The fact you are sitting at home reading this on a computer or phone is the result of that very process.