Design as Veneer (or) Meaning & Belief

What do we mean when we say “Design?”

Some variation of this statement happens in almost every conversation we have with potential vendors, “Wow… you guys really care about design.” While statement is deadly true, what they usually mean is, “Wow… you guys really care about the way things look.”

The people that help us bring brand identities and branded environments to life — printers, signage companies, contractors, developers — typically see design as a veneer. Window dressing. Aesthetics. What things look like.

But we mean what Steve meant:

Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.


Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Because we know:

Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
Jeffrey Zeldman


The dumbest mistake is viewing design as something you do at the end of the process to ‘tidy up’ the mess, as opposed to understanding it’s a ‘day one’ issue and part of everything.— Tom Peters

And we believe:

Before you can execute the design, you’ve got to live the design problem.
Kathleen Brandenburg


People ignore design that ignores people.
Frank Chimero

And then we try to live all that out in such a way that:

Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.
Joe Sparano

I hope we’re succeeding. Miles to go before we sleep.

Blankenship Office designs identities and environments for brands big and small. Our design process covers everything from initial strategy and concepts through fabrication and installation. We love helping bold brands we believe in. If you need a design partner for your next move, say