What is Design? A Quick Guide to Its Main Types and Eras

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What is Design

Design is the process of creating visually appealing objects and concepts that help solve various problems and shape the world around us. We see it everywhere, from billboards to architectural objects in our cities.

If you want to understand design more deeply, keep reading this article to figure out the main design types and eras, starting with Art Nouveau and ending with digital design

5 different types of design

There are different types of design that encompass various industries and are divided into several subtypes. To start with, let’s discover the five main ones:

Graphic design

Graphic design is the art of creating visual content that effectively communicates various messages. This content includes logos, posters, social media materials, infographics, etc. Such designers use typography, images, color, and layout to make visuals informative and appealing. 

Graphic design is one of the oldest and biggest digital design examples. The market size revenue of this industry reached $48.1 billion in 2022.

Industrial design 

This type of design is all about creating functional, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly products. Industrial designers create consumer electronics, furniture, and appliances.

Interior design

Interior design involves planning and arranging the interior spaces of buildings. It values functionality, aesthetics, and safety. Interior designers work on the layout, furniture selection, color schemes, and decor to make interiors harmonious and functional.

Fashion design 

Fashion design is the art of creating clothing and accessories. Such designers pay attention to style, fabric, color, and patterns. They set trends and help people express themselves through their clothing.

UI/UX design 

UI/UX design focuses on creating user-friendly digital products: websites, mobile apps, and software interfaces. UI designers create visual elements and layouts, while UX designers focus on the overall user experience, making such products functional and easy to use. Currently, this is one of the most popular careers in digital design

FAQ: Who is the father of design?

As design is diverse and covers a wide range of disciplines, it doesn’t have one founding father. Some notable names are Raymond Loewy and Dieter Rams in the industrial design field, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture and urban planning, and Paul Rand in graphic design.

Main design eras

Design has gone through various eras and movements throughout history. Some of the main eras that influenced aesthetics, principles, and philosophies in various design niches include:

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau means “New Art” in French. This was an artistic movement characterized by intricate, ornate designs inspired by nature and asymmetrical forms. Art Nouveau was influential in architecture, interior design, furniture, and visual arts.

Art Deco

This design era emerged during the interwar period. Art Deco was famous for its sleek, geometric designs and a focus on luxury and modernity. It incorporated elements from various art movements, including Cubism and Futurism. The movement was prevalent in architecture, fashion, and decorative arts.

Mid-century modern

Mid-century modern was a response to peoples’ need for functional, minimalist, and aesthetically pleasing designs. Its goal was to bring modernity and simplicity into everyday life. This era is known for clean lines, open spaces, and a focus on functionality. It heavily influenced interior design, furniture, and architecture.


Postmodernism was a reaction against the strict modernist principles of the mid-20th century. This movement focused on eclecticism and irony, and was well-known for often combining multiple design elements in one piece. It was influential in architecture, graphic design, and urban planning.


Minimalism is a philosophy characterized by simplicity and the “less is more” approach. Although it first appeared in the 1960s and was strongly influenced by the Bauhaus school, minimalism is still relevant and valued today. Minimalist designs are often monochromatic, functional, and stripped of any excess elements. This movement has influenced a wide range of design fields, including architecture, interior design, and fashion.

Digital design

Digital design is a product of the digital age that focuses on usability, interactivity, and aesthetics in the digital realm. Digital design products are websites, user interfaces, video games, and other digital media. This era is still ongoing and continues to evolve as technologies advance. 

Sustainable design

This is a 21st-century movement that influences many industries. Sustainable design is also known as “green design” or “eco-design”. Its goal is to create products, buildings, and systems with minimal environmental impact, reducing waste and carbon footprint. It addresses ecological and social sustainability concerns, and is highly relevant these days as 46% of consumers are looking to brands to take the lead on creating sustainable change. 

FAQ: Who created design?

Design wasn’t created by a single person. This industry has been shaped by various cultures, societies, and historical periods, evolving as time goes on.

FAQ: When did design history begin?

Design history is a complex and evolving field that doesn’t have a specific starting point. However, design as a practice has existed since ancient civilizations, with evidence of designed objects and structures dating back thousands of years. Formal documentation and scholarly exploration of design history began to gain prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with movements like the Arts and Crafts movement and the emergence of industrial design. Since then, design history has continuously developed and expanded, encompassing a wide range of design disciplines and historical periods.

To sum up

As an ever-evolving field, design reflects cultural, technological, and societal changes. From the intricate details of pre-modern craftsmanship to the eclecticism of postmodernism, design has adapted to meet the needs and desires of society continuously. To refresh your grasp on the evolution of human creativity and problem-solving, refer to insights on the different types of design and their historical context in this article. 

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