Everything Is Designed

Look away from the screen (for just a second or two). Everything you have just witnessed has been designed. The placement of trees, the shaping of fields for agriculture, the street furniture, carpet, your chair and wrist watch have all been considered. Our influence on our surrounding environment is beyond remarkable.

In our profession it is very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Our days are spent obsessing over graphic design details; typography, grids, hierarchy, message and meaning. Occasionally we need to step back to consider the collective effort that has gone into making our society the way it is today. Many generations of work, time, money and thought has led us to this very point in time.

Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.
— Brian Reed

A few years back I had the opportunity to visit two very different European cities in very quick succession. A stag weekend in Benidorm, followed by a short break in Copenhagen. In just one week I was exposed to two very different approaches to design.

A view across Benidorm between two concrete towers

Prior to the 1960s, Benidorm was a small village. Today it stands out for its hotel industry, beaches and skyscrapers, built as a result of its tourist-oriented economy. The newer buildings are largely bland boxes with little respect for the heritage of Old Town Benidorm. Restaurants focus on price over quality and attractions distribute scooter riders with megaphones in a bid for your attention. Benidorm epitomises cheap, quick and convenient.

When walking around the streets of Benidorm it feels as if everything has been designed for price over experience. As a result it lacks culture and depth. The beautiful beech (the reason people flocked there is the first place) is no longer visible through the rows of sandy sky scrapers.

An outdoor swimming pool on a sunny day in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a major regional centre of culture, business, media, and science and it is also considered one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities. Aesthetically Copenhagen is a vast contrast to Benidorm. Historical buildings have been cared for whilst new builds are edgy, architectural master pieces that will stand the test of time to become historical attractions themselves.

Our hotel (Hotel Fox) invited different illustrators and designers from around the globe to create unique experiences for each room. Restaurants serve fresh, delicious dishes with attention to tiny details such as cutlery and furnishings. The Copenhagen experience has been crafted, considered, refined and is likely the primary reason why the city has repeatedly been recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life.

It is our joint responsibility to consider the impact our work will have on our society and the world we live. The smallest of details have a real impact on the quality of our work, its longevity and its effect on culture.

Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.
— Robert L. Peters

If everything is designed, perhaps design is everything. Design changes the world. Done well, it changes it for the better.