Design Definitions

I’m doing some definitions for a new Design Encyclopedia to be published later in the year – any comments, suggestions welcome.


An archetype is a descriptor of a person or object which describes fundamentals of behaviours or form. Plato (4th Century BC) first described archetypes in terms of the essential ‘character’ of a thing. 20th Century Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described archetypes as universal representations of ideas. In design, archetypes are used to describe patterns of forms and behaviours based on examining existing artefacts or interviewing real people. The benefit of using archetypes is to build an informed understanding of people and things rather than relying on unresearched stereotypes. See also PERSONAS.

Prototypes are visual and/or tangible early versions of ideas produced to share, test and evaluate designs. In the design of products, prototypes were traditionally produced to test functionality, explore form and create tooling. Prototypes vary in fidelity, material and purpose from a quick lo-fi ‘lash-up’ of a mobile device in cardboard to demonstrate how it might be held or worn, without considering technological requirements, to a hi-fidelity CAD-CAM model with accompanying functioning microelectronics.
Prototyping is increasingly used at early stages of the design process in the design of both products and services to understand and become part of the IDEATION process. Work by Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri at design consultancy IDEO in the 1990s and Liz Sanders and Michael Schrage demonstrate how LO-FI prototyping can be used in the DESIGN RESEARCH phase to help demonstrate current behaviours, articulate needs and desires and test assumptions. Prototypes help both designers, users and clients see where improvements can be made in products and services before committing to large scale roll-outs. BETA versions of technology, which are a form of prototype are now often launched to enable users to suggest changes and improvements. (200) – I’ve asked Fraser to comment

Mood board 

Moodboards are visual tools used by graphic, interior, service, fashion and other designers to communicate the atmosphere, feelings, aesthetics and direction of a project to a client or other people involved in developing the design. They are a way of presenting values and sensibilities in a way that opens up discussion and enables people to communicate their likes and dislikes using the board as a prompt. Moodboards can be collages of images and text presented on large boards or in digital format.

About Hazel White

Director, Open Change
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