Design is the area of human activity where deliberate choices are made about things, processes and organisations. Design is progressive: each new generation of designers (of whatever kind) learns from the previous one. It is pervasive: the structure of modern life is designed, from the shape of letters on the page to the way roads are built to the voting mechanisms in elections. It is persuasive: once we’ve experienced something which is well-designed, we never wish to return to previous, undesigned versions.

But design is by no means as universal as it should be. Desktop publishing, photo-editing, 3d printing, kitchen-design software at Ikea, and the myriad of freely available fonts, to name but a few things, puts more mechanisms for design into the hands of more people than ever before, but the result is more often bad design than good design. Organisations are created with dysfunction built in from the beginning.

Lidwell, Holden and Butler’s seminal book Universal Principles of Design unpacks many of the ways in which design across all fields draws from the same pool of ideas.

In these pages, I want to go in the opposite direction and consider particular principles of design—organisational, typographical, even kitchen utensils.

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