As part of Forrester’s research about design, I recently reached out to frog design —  famous for its 50 years of iconic work for companies like Apple and Sony and more recently for Disney and Microsoft, among many others. I spoke with Tim Morey, frog’s VP of strategy, and I liked his one-sentence distillation of what design is about:

Design helps simplify, reduce, and frame challenges down to their essence.

Tim’s phrasing expresses both the breadth and depth of design. But many companies don’t understand this — they think design is merely about look and feel and is a touchy-feely domain for artsy creatives. My team of analysts and I see this misconception come up quite a bit. (We lead Forrester’s coverage of design.) And it’s a dangerous misconception, because it blinds companies to the business benefits of good design and undermines the effectiveness of their design efforts.

The reality is that design is about how things work, not just what they look and feel like. And it’s as much science as it’s art: Good design is rooted in the same principles as the scientific method:

  • Seeking out concrete evidence
  • Generating many ideas before choosing one
  • Conducting rigorous experiments
  • Never treating a result as final — but refining and improving continually and iteratively instead

Do some of your colleagues have this misperception about what design is? If so, take a look at the reports in our Design Revolution series, especially “Deep Design: Designing Well Combines Art And Science,” for guidance about how to help steer your firm in the right direction.

If you’d be up for sharing with me and my research team how this misperception crops up at your company, please reach out — we’d love to hear about your experience and have a conversation about what you can do to overcome the problem.