Dale Dowell

The Language of Design

Reflections from our summer intern, Dale Dowell.


As students of design we are taught to look at the formal qualities of the environment around us. The elements and principles of this field of study are cemented into our subconscious so that we recall them when an inspirational spark occurs we are able to dissect those qualities and put them back together in a manner that is organized and coherent. The learning process in an academic setting is only as long as the prescribed program but extends far beyond a classroom and a college classroom does not necessarily reflect real life. As a student I have learned the language of Art and Design. I know how to say the words but what do they mean?


A single word in any language can have many meanings so it is important to understand the context of how the word is said. This applies to design. A space, form, or shape can do or be a myriad of things. What is obvious to me as a designer may not be apparent to a client. This is why it is important to listen; to hear your client or allied professional. To hear them and understand their needs and requirements is key. We need to listen, reiterate and then listen again. Communication is the one element and/or Principle College does not hammer into us.


It is in the practice of design that we apply what we have learned in academia and through trial and error experience in the real world. We must also apply our understanding skills and techniques to materialize a completely realized space that is safe, comfortable and personalized to our clients’ needs and tastes. We must be malleable as designers as new products, textiles, materials, and techniques become available. Through practice and application our skills will evolve as will our use of the language of design. As it evolves we must then go back and learn, understand and apply the skills in a new way.