What is design?

When thinking about the importance of design, it is perhaps sensible to start with a definition of what design is.

Rob Hamblen
3 min readOct 24, 2021

At LEAP., design is the process of giving someone the functionality to get to grips with something new with little to no friction as possible. Providing a frictionless experience, the best experience possible, to fulfil an objective or even a dream. When thinking of design, a keyword to think of is ‘enable’.

The role of design is to enable the user to achieve this experience, to fulfil their dream.

Design is how you build your brand, how you communicate who you are from the user’s first look or interaction. It is something that needs to be nurtured and developed as this is the starting point that people will make a judgment on, this means it is also an investment.

Successful design in the product world sees UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) working symbiotically. It is in the intricacies of how UX and UI are married together. Isn’t the ideal product experience both beautiful yet highly functional? Without one compromising the other?

Design in practice…

When trying to think of this in practice, we look to professional design roles such as a Prototyper, or User Experience Designer and/or User Interface Designer. People that excel in these roles typically have a wider skill set than just being ‘creative’.

Being a designer today is a lot more than just opening Figma and nudging pixels to create a screen mockup or user-flow, it’s actually about having empathy for the customer or the end-user that you are ultimately designing for. In addition to the end-user, having a business mindset that can understand what makes not only a product but a business more successful in a strategically savvy way are essential traits for being a great designer.

How does Design tie into a Design Sprint?

So, being business savvy is part in parcel of being a good designer. The Design Sprint ironically has very little to do with ‘design’ and it’s often a huge misconception that this process’ sole purpose is geared just towards product creativity.

Ironically the Design Sprint should be adopted by more designers as part of their process to bridge the gap for designing more successful products, in a more strategic way. The best outcome for a Sprint is the product actually getting made and becoming successful, i.e. happy customers equal a more successful business right?

An essential role for a successful Sprint is the prototyper or product designer, often the only one in the room who is likely to be creative. It is vital that this individual bridges the gap between the product’s customer experience and the business objectives. The prototyper will have first-hand exposure from the big players in the company behind the product vision i.e. CEOs, CTOs, CPOs, and Sales Directors who will strive for more functionality sometimes at the expense of the users’ experience.

So a Design Sprint will help us design better products?

Of course! But, it should also be highlighted here that the outcome of a successful Design Sprint should not be a ‘designed product’. There’s a difference. The outcome of the Sprint or more importantly, the data collected will help the design team design a more successful product. This only happens after the business side of things have been validated by those target users or customers. This is when the design of the product can really start.

The role of the designer in Sprint is to ensure there is a product for the end-user which balances out those business objectives into an experience they can actually use and want to use. In turn, the business will be more successful.

That’s Design.

Final thoughts to consider

Design can also be used to disrupt. Are you designing for today or for tomorrow? This is a pivotal question to ask because if you are designing for today you are just copying the status quo. The only way you can truly disrupt through design is to be thinking about designing for tomorrow.



Rob Hamblen

Founder of LEAP. ‘be the leap’ — ex Creative Director of UX for IBM Studios. ex Senior Design Manager Qualcomm Inc. ex Product Design Director for AJ&Smart.