Does Design Matter?

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Does Design Matter?
The decision not to clad the George Washington Bridge in granite contributed to its iconic appearance

Of course it does. Everything we make is the result of design. Design knows no scale. To paraphrase Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, the most famous design school of the 20th century, design should cover everything from the teacup to the city. At the scale of the city and its infrastructure, design can be overwhelmingly complex, taking enormous time and effort. Good design must solve problems and also create aesthetically pleasing results. Society sometimes separates these two critical design elements and every generation struggles to re-balance these sometimes opposing needs. When design succeeds, it can boost the economy and provide a distinct style recognizable to future generations. And when we design exceedingly well, we build classics that deflect the wrecking ball to become timeless.

The design of infrastructure is multifaceted, requiring the efforts of many disciplines. As many human endeavors do, these disciplines fall on either side of a divide. On one side, there are those that focus on the hard numbers, that which is quantifiable. On the other, fall the soft needs, the subjective desires that are hard to measure. These disciplines align with the hemispheres of the brain—between the left, the more analytical side, and the right, the intuitive domain. As neuroscience reveals to us, we need both sides to accomplish difficult tasks. []