Designand |’dezig-nand|

A person for whom a design is created.
plural: designands


(It’s pronounced dezig-nand. Say it three times so you hear it right in your head as you read.)


It’s a drastic and annoying step to coin a neologism, but in this case I think it is fully warranted.

Aren’t we all sick of tripping over language when attempting to speak about the single most important concept in design work: our user? (Or should I say, our audience? or customer? or stakeholder *ugh!*…? or…?)

We need a simple, generic term that means nothing more or less than the person for whom a design is made. No conceptual baggage. No smuggled in ethical crap. Just a linguistic device to designate “who this thing is for.”

We can, and most certainly will, continue to bicker over the nature of our designands and how best to regard them, relate to them, include them, conceptualize them, treat them, and all that. But being able to just hold the subject still while we do the hard, messy work of predication will make a world of difference in the quality of the discourse.

And best of all — setting aside all attempts at relative neutrality (I side with those who believe that there are myriad designands, with drastically different relationships to the designs intended for them) — the word “designand” will make it easier to be pluralistic about design intentions. We can discuss in each case who the designand is. Are the designands of this project primarily customers who are making a purchase decision, users of some sort of tool, an audience who is mostly passively participating, members of some sort of organization mediated by this design, etc., etc. But really this also works out for design ideologues who want to argue that all designands are of some fixed nature. (You know, they’re ALL essentially participants, because there’s no such thing as real passivity; or they’re all customers, because they’re buying into what’s offered or not; or they’re all users, because we use everything we experience, somehow or another; blah, blah, blah, whatever.) But now we have a word for the being who has all these qualities or characteristics we’re claiming are universal.

We need this word, and I’m going to use it, and I’m going to sound like an asshole, and I’ll willingly suffer the abuse of cool people. I’d rather sound like a pedant than deprive myself of the words I need to put together a good thought.


Leave a Reply