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Design vs Style

It is amazing how often we come across this misunderstanding of these two terms. In fact, if I had a pound for every time it happened I’d have somewhere in the region of some more money than I have now...

The most recent came whilst reading a report on the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge back in early March (if you notice the date of this blog you see this has been playing on my mind for a while).

The reporter made note of the curving screen and the new materials used, the change from plastic to metal case. He commented that the phone was certainly more “designed” than the last model. That Samsung had put “design” first to appeal to the style crowd.

So here’s where the problem starts, again what we have here is really a confusion between style and design.

Every phone Samsung has ever made has been designed, you can put more—or for that matter less—thought into the design, but you can’t put more “design” in. The only way you could not design a phone would be to not create a phone, or perhaps drop all the bits that make up a phone in a big pile and then launch it into the market (some designs aren’t far off this approach to be fair).

So, what we are really talking about when looking at material used, and aesthetics is more often than not, style.

Style is part of the design process. Once you have designed the functionality of the piece you are part of the way to the final design. Tailoring the product or advert or website, to your audience (and ensuring it fits with your brand values) is where style comes in. The item is styled to be aimed at a specific market.

A brochure for instance is designed to be a certain size, weight, carry a certain message, to sell a specific product, but is styled to appeal to different markets.

A large part of the life of most designers is, to a greater or lesser degree, overcoming this distorted view of what design really is. We don’t mind to be fair, as we like to talk about this stuff, and anyone with a willing ear will often get more than they bargained for. But, it’s  something designers hold dear, we all want to make things look and also perform better, to be more useful and more effective, and to be more loved (the product, not us).

Style is just a part of the complete toolset that makes a design.

If you want to know more about design, or how it can help your company or organisation, we’d at Caffeine Creative would be happy to hear from you.

By Jeff Patreane

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