It’s apparent from a post I read recently — “Design is Not a Service” — that there must be some sort of potent and pernicious hallucinogen making the rounds.

The author of the post, seemingly in the throes of an overdose of the stuff, ranted through 362 words of impenetrable incoherence ranging from Hercules to horse dung, from Hesperides to Nereus, from truth to the human condition. He penned every word in ostensible service to the lunatic notion that design can exist without a purpose. And he exhorted his readers thusly, with bold-faced emphasis:

We sometimes wait for an assignment to perform epic feats, but waiting for an assignment is a trap. It means you are always subservient, never in charge … As designers — let’s move upstream. Let’s make our own assignments.

I readily concede I may be missing the point. But, just in case I’m not, I have a few questions to ask of our wayward word-slinger :

  • Huh?
  • Make your own assignments to design what?
  • Do you share your drugs?

Design without purpose isn’t design. If it has no purpose, we can’t know what it is. If design without purpose has any aesthetic value, it might be art. But it’s definitely not design, at least by definition:

design (noun): an outline, sketch, or plan, as of the form and structure of an edifice, published (or publishable) content, or a machine to be executed or constructed.

Maybe our wasted wordsmith had something on his mind that his addled condition left him unable to express intelligibly. Given his insensible syntax, it’s hard to tell. But it did inspire me to jot this little ditty in the hope of sparing him any further attempts at fabricating designs from buckets of steam (and precluding our having to read about them):

I shot a pie into the sky
And waited for it, by and by,
To find its proper landing place.
The damn thing came down in my face.

Pie in the sky. Castles in the air. Call it what you will. Design without purpose puts form before function.

No can do.

Image by 1045373, courtesy of