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Design Matters // Margaret Gaggioli


I ran across the short video, ‘Shape’ created by Johnny Kelly for Pivot Dublin, a Dublin City Council initiative that “aims to get young people interested in design.”  Even though this was originally produced for young children in Scotland, it still makes an effective claim. Using nothing but stick figures ‘Shape’ highlights how design affects our everyday lives.  Yes, we all aware of the concept ‘Design Matters’ but I was intrigued by this video because it caused me to reflect on how the seemingly smallest design can have a large impact on our daily lives and experiences.  For instance, simply lowering cubicle heights in offices can inspire more collaboration and sharing of ideas.  Or, a path and trees between buildings can become a community destination point where children play. 


We as designers are all more than familiar with the term ‘Design Matters’.  Being part of the Design+Make studio this year, we have developed a holistic understanding of what this term truly entails.  We are now working with real clients and with real projects, which will culminate in tangible, built designs. We are learning that a design that matters is not solely defined by the end product, but by the process; A process that makes a difference to those we serve and to the community at large.  


The relationship between designer and client is the cornerstone of a design that matters.  Both parties need to have trust, belief, and open communication with one another.  The designer and the client must truly believe that the implementation of design is essential to the success and realization of their vision.  They must believe it is worth their time and investment to pursue the lengthy process of design, compared to the faster option of buying manufactured products.  During this process, we, as designers, must listen to the needs and wants of our clients and stakeholders.  A vision for the future must be agreed upon.  Both need to agree upon how the design will be implemented and how it hopes to transform experience and space. Designers then carry forth the process through considerate craft including thorough material research, construction documents, prototypes, and final production knowing that every detail is important. Essentially we have to ensure that the thoughts and intentions behind these designs are truly embodied in the final physical products.  


Why would we fabricate three conference desk surfaces out of reclaimed palettes that take more than 50 hours to complete, if Asian American for Equality (AAFE) could have simply bought manufactured conference tables on casters from Office Depot or Staples for their mobile office in Kansas City?  We do this because we know design matters.  Just as they are preserving the brown field building to serve a new and useful purpose instead of using new materials, we reflect their actions by preserving lightly used palettes to serve a new and useful purpose.  



Why would we devote so much time and effort to designing original community room furniture for the resident of Restart’s Housing in Kansas City when couches, tables, and folding chairs could have been simply ordered from IKEA? We do this because we know design matters.  Thoughtful designs, crafted to the unique situations of these residents, will show them that someone truly cares about their wellbeing and will inspire confidence and security. With our hard work, design becomes more than just the finished product; it becomes the process and meaning behind it.  We carry on with the hope that our design will inspire through innovation, craft, and thought and will truly matter to those whose interact with and inhabit our designs.


Even though all our designs this year in Design+Make studio have seemingly been small, we have worked to design and craft products that embody the vision of each specific organization and client cultivated through a dynamic partnership. Design fosters relationships, inspiration, and trajectories for the future. No matter how large or how small, design matters.

Written by Margaret Gaggioli

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