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An Approach to Design

In its largest sense, design is how we shape the world around us. Design is how humans participate in the ongoing making of the world. As Victor Papanek puts it, "design is basic to all human activity." I use mediums like art, graphics, illustration, and materials like paint, wood, and clay to shape the world. Design becomes the process through which I do the shaping. It encompasses the "why", the "how", and the "what" of the things I choose to give form to.

The question becomes what to give form to? This is where design gets philosophical and even metaphysical. Design exists somewhere in the space between; between what is and what could be. The "could be" is a world created by dreams, hopes, and imaginations, which are shaped by ideals, values, and beliefs. The "could be" is wrapped up in our existential search for meaning, purpose, and belonging. It lives in the space between people, between people and places, and between people and themselves. Design is the process by which we bring what "could be" into what is.


Any human being seeking to manifest a "could be" will encounter the daunting challenge of turning idea into reality. They will inevitably realize there are endless possibilities of what the idea could look like. Where to start? How to find clarity? In the words of Le Corbusier, "creation is a patient search." Design is a process of discovery.

I am drawn to that emergent space where people are attempting to create something new. Where idea and form wrestle together to express meaning. A sense of purpose awaits to be discovered there; the individual's or collective's unique offering to the world. Design becomes a partner in this discovery and helps to share what has been found.

When clients approach me with a project, an idea of their "could be," we engage in a process of discovery: exploring all the many qualities of their vision and work collaboratively to clarify these distinctions into a meaningful form. I like to start with "why," so I can understand the beliefs, values, and ideals motivating the energy behind this effort of making something in the world. Because making things requires effort and energy. A lot of it. It is no small task to make something new, especially something with your name attached to it. This is why starting the design process with the intention to discover in order to clarify, is so important.


Design, as it exists in the space between people, is the art of creating connection. A connection that establishes a relationship where values can be communicated and ideas shared. We are all seeking connection to others and to ourselves, and intuitively know creativity flourishes in this space. Design facilitates connection to the outside world and to the inner landscape. Design is ultimately about relationships.

With clients seeking to establish a new relationship with their audience or create a new point of connection to share their unique offering, we will explore the nuances of the context their idea needs to exist within. Design becomes a tool for communicating ideas between people. This exploration will reveal the language, tone, and voice to best translate ideas into invitation.


Design doesn't exist apart from place. A sense of place is where we ground and orientate this emerging sense of purpose and connection. Place authenticates purpose. Place holds connection. The process of design, of bringing ideas into reality, directly shapes the places around us. Therefore, understanding the impact our designing and shaping will have on these places is foundational. It has to be. Everything we do as humans is built on it. Design cannot be divorced from its fundamental connection to Nature; our first relationship. I'll be the first to admit that I am part of the problem and that a paradigm shift is necessary to be a part of the solution.


Sustainability in design is no longer an option, it needs to be baked in from the beginning; starting at the end of a product's life cycle and designing in reverse. This might mean questioning the necessity of a physical or digital product. It will always mean thoroughly researching materials, processes, and emerging technologies to mitigate the impact on our places.

This is my approach to design. It is always evolving. As am I. If you're someone with an idea, a sense of purpose, a "could be" that you are trying to make real, a unique gift you want to share with the world, I can help. We'll use design to the guide way.

Send me an email and we'll begin the journey.

Copyright © 2021 Joshua Clarke.  All rights reserved. Every last one of them.

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