Lester Lee Monogram

Lester Lee - a student

© 2017-2018

Design Manifesto

We are designers. We are urged to create, to channel ideas through our bodies onto paper, stones, screens. When we choose one shape over another, one color over another, one idea, one function, one form, one side, one number, one design over another, we design. We are artists, engineers, tailors. A collection of spools lay before us, and we pull at threads, one at a time, a few at a time, each motion with purpose, each thread a part of what we design. We stand before a canvas, palette gripped with our thumb, designing with each stroke we paint, delicate or broad, orange or blue.

What guides us as we design? When faced with the choice between horizontal and vertical navigation, how do we make the right choice? How can we be satisfied with our choices? There must be something at the center of every decision we make, something we can turn to and stand by in our design process. If we must design, then we will follow these guidelines. This is our manifesto.

We will design for ourselves.

We will know why we are designing, and stand by our reasons. Not everyone will agree with what we do, and we do not design for everyone. We are responsible first and foremost for ourselves, know best what we want for ourselves. A design will only be as good as the amount of effort that went into it, and we will only put as much effort into a design as we are willing to. An idea must first capture our attention before we are willing to commit, to turn a vague idea into a concrete design, to design something we can be proud of. If we are motivated to make a good design, we will pour ourselves into the process.

We will design for an audience.

It is important to think about who a design is meant for. Who will use our design? Who will want to use our design? Who should use our design? Who will pay us as we design? Who will buy our design? We will design for ourselves, but we cannot design only for ourselves. Our work must be appreciated, must be desired. It is not enough that we are satisfied with our design; we must also satisfy others with our design, and that means finding out both what others want and need.

There are many ways of acquiring that information, and all of them include interaction with our intended audience. We need context to design. We should not assume that we can think of every possibility by ourselves, nor should we consider ourselves representative of an audience at large. We must go and research – conduct interviews, talk to focus groups, send out surveys. The data we gather from our research must then be incorporated into our design process.

During Pin’s early stages, we had a vague idea of who our main audience would be: people who enjoyed wandering outdoors, as they were most likely to encounter new and curious things. We had to conduct contextual inquiries to really get into the headspace of our potential users, to find out what exactly drew their attention as they walked around outside, the reasons for why they wander, how often they wander, and all sorts of other information. We learned about what people do when they are curious about something, what motivates them to learn more about something, and what distracts them from completing the learning process. We would not have any of these insights had we not interacted with our potential userbase.

Once we have an understanding of our audience, we begin to think about how our audience might interact with our design. What would they use our design for? How can our design better fit their wants and needs? What forms can our design take to incorporate what we’ve learned? Our design process is motivated by ourselves, but it is informed by our audience.

We will expand our audience.

It is not enough to design for a limited audience or even to think about a limited audience. If there is a person who might be able to appreciate our design, then we must think about that person. We cannot claim to be all-encompassing, to have thought of every single possibility, as we have biases and assumptions that we are not aware of. However, we can aim to include as a wide an audience as we can and overcome our limitations.

What are the affordances and signifiers of our design? Can we increase the number of affordances? Can we make the signifiers clearer? These are all questions we must ask repeatedly in our design process. If we increase the number of ways our design can be interacted with, everyone benefits. Everyone benefits from clear, unambiguous language. So we must think about how to answer these questions, and how to encompass a more inclusive audience. For example, we can make text in our design easier for screen-readers to process. We can allow multiple ways of interacting with our design, such as voice commands or a touchscreen. In doing so, we improve the design for our entire audience. The easier it is to interact with our design, and the more accessible our design is, the more likely our audience will be expanded, and the better our design will be.

We will aim for beauty.

Our designs will be pleasing to ourselves and to our audience, delightful to all senses. We must first make it beautiful for our audience, and then for ourselves. Our design will be nowhere near our goal at the beginning. It will not be beautiful on our first try, or maybe even the fifth. It may never reach the standards that we are striving for, but with each step in our design process, we make our design that little bit more beautiful.

Pin’s first design was quick and dirty. We cared more about the functionality of our design than its appearance. A design’s aesthetic quality is not only in its visual appeal; it must also feel good to interact with, and before even that, it must first be functional. By not focusing on the appearance, we could iterate through different ideas without becoming overly attached to any one of them.

As mentioned before, there is only so much we can design by ourselves. During each iteration of our prototypes, we conducted user tests to get a better understanding of our design’s strengths and weaknesses. What were we doing right? What were we doing wrong? Even after our prototype was improved, we were still not done. At each step of our design process, our design must be evaluated, our ideas confirmed or rejected.

It takes a lot of work to make something beautiful, and that includes a lot of trial and error. We do not presume that we can ever make something that will please everyone, but we will aim to improve our design even by the tiniest amount, and in doing so, make our design more beautiful for a greater number of people.

Code of Ethics

We will not always agree on what is ethical, but that should not stop us from thinking about ethics. We cannot pretend to live in an isolated world. We interact with others on a daily basis, and our designs will impact other people. We must think about our design in its proper context, and consider the ethical questions that may arise. While we do not have set answers for these questions, there are some general guidelines that we may follow as we continue to design. We will:


We are designers, first and foremost for ourselves, and then for as wide a range of audience as we can reach. As we design, we will strive to make our design the best it can be, and we will follow our code of ethics as we make our choices.