Design vs. Decoration

Jun 23, 2011

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What is the difference between design and decoration?

Can these words be used interchangeably? And how do these terms relate to your current website? The short answer is that there are key differences between design and decoration, and understanding the differences can have huge implications for your website. Has your site been “designed” or “decorated”?


Design is the process of planning the form and structure of a functional object. Designers are interested in human psychology, communication, interactive processes, visual perception, logic, cultural tendencies, historical movements and aesthetics. Although college degrees and certifications are not always required, professional designers of all types generally have both. Unfortunately, many people call themselves professional designers when they are actually decorators or technicians with little or no training in design.


Decoration is the process of furnishing or adorning an object with ornamental embellishments. Decorators are interested in dressing things up for aesthetic purposes, with no concern for functionality, clarity of communication, logic or interactive processes. Most decorators are hobbyists, people who have an interest or talent for choosing colors, patterns, furnishings and materials. They are highly attuned to the latest styles and trends in pop culture. They sometimes decorate for a living, working at a furniture or home improvement store, an imports outlet or a copy shop. They may decorate a home, a landscape, a scrapbook . . . . or a website.

The Influence of Desktop Publishing

With the advent of desktop publishing tools, decorators found an outlet for unleashing their creative instincts. They suddenly had thousands of fonts at their disposal, along with tools for creating colors, patterns, textures, bevels and drop shadows. They had an unlimited supply of clip-art and photos, and could upload the pictures they’d taken with their i-phones. They had flashy animation software, blinking text, music and ready-made templates galore. The digital world became an infinite supply of whitespace that could be filled with anything the mind could imagine. Desktop publishing software did for design what the insta-matic camera did for photography or the camcorder for the movie industry. It put professional tools in the hands of the common man, for better and for worse. The internet then took the creations of the “average Joe” and made it possible for him to share with the entire world. The world will never be the same because of it.

Poorly Designed Websites (decorated)

Is Your Site Designed, or is it Decorated?

So how does all of this affect your business? Well, for one thing, it re-arranges the playing field. Small businesses can look big, and big businesses can look small. Consumers can visit your business without leaving the house, and they can evaluate the quality of your business by the quality of your website. Businesses can observe the habits of their potential customers, they can open lines of communication, and they can target their advertising messages with pinpoint accuracy. The companies that learn how to play the game by the new rules become the thousand pound gorillas, while those who don’t become white elephants. Was your website designed, or was it decorated? Was it created by a highly trained professional, with an understanding of factors from a broad range of disciplines, or was it put together by a nephew who once took a class in HTML? Is your site easy to navigate? Does it have a clear and strong call to action? Does it reflect the quality of your business, your products and your services? Does it have a professionally designed logo, and does it work together with your business card, brochures and advertising to create a cohesive and powerful identity for your company? Was it built by a “one-man-band,” or a team of professional designers, developers and technicians? Take a few minutes to look at your current website. Ask your customers what they think about it. Ask a stranger to navigate your site, and watch where she gets “stuck.” “Google” a logical search topic and see where you show up in the rankings. If you aren’t happy with what you learn, call a professional design team, and get a website that WORKS for you.

Well Design Websites

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