buzzwords every designer should know

Like or loathe them, you need to know them. We keep you up to date with the latest must-know buzzwords in the design industry.

Design is a living discipline, and as with any other practice that evolves and changes over time, the words we use to describe it also adapt and develop.

Not all words are here for the long term, of course, and some are plain ridiculous, but if you want to remain at the forefront of the buzz, there are some you definitely need to know.

Keeping up to date with the latest buzzwords can be a bit of a headache. It seems like every week there’s a new collection of words in use that have a specific meaning, often centred around trying to make something sound more impressive or technologically advanced than it really is.


Design-thinking involves adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to engineering a solution

?Design-thinking is one of those phrases that’s used a lot, but nobody is quite sure what it means – or at least, everyone you ask will provide a different opinion over its precise definition.

Our definition centers around the concept that design isn’t a solitary, isolated discipline. Design-thinking brings together many different elements of an overall process to a single harmonious whole, by adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to engineering a solution.

Deep empathy ?

Deep Empathy means designing something that will appeal at more than purely a visual level

This buzzword relates to the idea that design can be used to engage with a customer and connect with them at a meaningful level. This idea isn’t anything new, of course, but the phrase ‘deep empathy’ to describe this process of appealing to a user is. Put simply, it refers to an approach where a design is engineered to appeal at more than purely a visual level.

Design with a big D?

“Design with a big D” is about the overall process, concept or idea rather than its execution

This buzzword centers around the idea that design is a multi-faceted discipline. There’s the beautification of something through presentation, which we commonly think of as graphic design or web design, and then there’s the over-arching idea behind that thing. ‘Design with a big D’ is about the overall process, concept or idea that underpins everything about it – not just the visual aspect of that thing.


Localization means adapting a design to a particular geographical market

?Localization is the process of adapting a design to meet the specific unique requirements of a particular territory or market. For example, it might involve repaginating content to accommodate a different text direction (such as with Chinese), or adopting different imagery to account for local tastes and culture.

Although not strictly a new word, either in its non-buzz or buzz sense, it’s increasingly being used in the design world as our work is repurposed and developed to meet a global audience.

Brand storytelling ?

Brand storytelling involves giving your marketing an overriding philosophy

This isn’t a new concept either, but the term is being increasingly bandied around as a way of explaining the idea that as technology evolves, the best marketing in the world will be significantly less successful if there isn’t a compelling story underpinning the brand being sold to the customer.

In short, everything needs to have a raison d’être, a philosophy and sense of aspiration that is communicated in every aspect of communication. It’s a pretty important concept, with a serious underlying point.


An authentic design is believable, grounded and relevant

This is one of the easiest words in our list to define. It simply refers to the idea that design adopts a believable, grounded and relevant approach to representing ideas, products or services.

For design to be authentic, it needs to accurately reflect the values, ideas and aesthetic of the underlying idea. This sounds simple, but is actually a valuable consideration that requires considerable effort to get right.?

The Internet of Things points to the fact that the internet inhabits more than just our computers nowadays

The Internet of Things refers to the concept that all our everyday devices and real-world user interfaces are becoming connected to the web, allowing for automation, remote control and smart communication between (say) your door handle and your security system. It’s not so much a design-specific term, but it’s in such widespread use that you’ll have definitely come across it. Find out more in this article explaining how to design for the internet of things.

Thought leader

This increasingly ubiquitous phrase is used as a way to explain the idea that by influencing the ‘correct people’, by orientating design towards them, they – as thought leaders – will go on to help spread the word to their followers.

It stems from the idea that every industry has people thought of as being authorities/gurus. Engineering your work towards these leaders, the theory says, will help you achieve a better result. While this buzzword doesn’t actually originate from the design world, it’s increasingly used within it – although more often by clients than by designers themselves.

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