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WFH, also known as Work From Home, is getting a lot of attention as much of the workforce migrates from the office to the home. There are scores of articles about equipments needed, how to have virtual meetings, and how to set up a home office. These are all very important considerations, but one that should not be ignored is design.

Design is the process of creating something based on a plan. No longer the purview of architects, interior designers, and the like, it has now come to us mortal souls.

There is no longer any doubt about it. Design, has finally become regarded as the important aspect of life that it is. I know this because CBS Sunday Morning, my favorite television program, has had an annual design show each year for the past few years. I also know this because schools of design have popped up all over the place. In most cases, these schools are tied in with a school of art or architecture.

Good design can sometimes be so subtle that it's hardly noticed. When traffic flows smoothly, for example, it is taken for granted. But let the merge lane be too short or the signage too confusing and bad design is evident in all its ugly glory. Traffic circles are a good example. If they work, then it is good design; if they do not, then it is bad design.

PHIL HARDWICK

PHIL HARDWICK

Although design is ubiquitous, it is in our homes where we can really appreciate it, perhaps because we spend so much time there. I live for many years in a house that was built in 1959. It was designed for 1959. It has a formal living room, for example. It also has a hot water at the opposite end of the house from the bathrooms. I have not done anything about having to wait an extra minute for hot water in the bathroom, but the formal living room was opened up by removing most of a wall and installing a new counter top and bar. Houses are good examples of the effect on design and vice versa because our living spaces seem to be constantly evolving. Master bedrooms are huge in most new houses, and master bathrooms have become something that the Roman rulers would be envious of.

Interior design is all the rage these days. In case you have not noticed, just turn on the television and see how many so-called makeover programs are on the schedule. And let us not forget feng shui. Feng means wind, and Shui means water in Chinese. The two things affect the weather and weather affects our energy. Thus, where a house is located and the direction it faces can impact our rhythm and energy. If the house is in alignment or in rhythm with the landscape, a good healthy life force is created. Consultants are now available to design a house using these principles. And let’s not forget Marie Kondo, the popular tidying up expert who, although not an interior designer per-se, has some design principles in her message and now has a container store website.

Design continually affects the devices and appliances we use in our houses. From vacuum cleaners to washers and dryers, there seems to be a constant redesign to make things better or maybe more in tune with the times. Even dust rags and paper towels are part of the process. There is now a plastic tub of Clorox cleaning rags for the counter and something called Swifters for those hard to get to places where dust hides. Our appliances can now be connected to the internet via wi-fi.

One wonders whether older was older better. Seaside, Florida has a motto that reads, "The New Town. The Old Ways."  New urbanism is about designing communities to be walkable and diverse. Indeed the charter of charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism states in part, "...urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice."

Design principles have even become universal. I know that because I discovered the Universal Design Alliance, which defines universal design as "...is a user-friendly approach to design in the living environment where people of any culture, age, size, weight, race, gender and ability can experience an environment that promotes their health, safety and welfare today and in the future."  Who can argue with that?  The organization provides seven principles for universal design as follows:

1. Equitable Use

2. Flexibility in Use

3. Simple & Intuitive Use

4. Perceptible Information

5. Tolerance for Error

6. Low Physical Effort

7. Size & Space for Approach and Use

In conclusion, I suggest that it is time that we appreciate and understand more the role that design plays in our lives and the contributions of designers, whether they be architects, engineers, artists or others.

» PHIL HARDWICK is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist.  His e-mail address is phil@philhardwick.com.

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