From time to time I like to pause for a moment and think about how I should describe myself and what I do. This resulting description is then something that I try to revisit from time to time to check if it’s still something that I can identify with and whether my everyday activities line up with it.
Right now, I adhere to the following description:
I’m a cognitive scientist interested in philosophy, science, design, and the intersection of the three aforementioned fields.
When I came up with this description, I certainly felt that it rang true for me, but at the same time I wasn’t sure about what exactly I meant by “design”, only that that was the word that I really felt was the right one to describe this vague, mental construct that I had in mind. Well, since then, I’ve had some time to think about it and to better come to grips with what I really mean by “design”. What follows is therefore an exposition of what I put into the meaning of the word.
First of all, you can use the word in a narrow or a more broad sense. When it comes to the former, design is basically what people are taught at design schools; it has something to do with drawing pretty shapes and placing them relative to each other so that the end result is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
When using the term “design” in a broader sense though, I see it as a form of general method that can be applied towards just about everything rather than only towards this niche activity that is performed by hipsters and/or art directors. It’s a method that involves attention to details, a clear understanding of the end goals, as well as a set of end goals that are unified by an underlying understanding that in the end, things are just meant to be harmonic, meaning that the subject perceiving the final product should feel a minimal level of tension in herself. Because in the end, everything that really matters are positive and negative experiences.
Further, tension can arise because of several different factors: If you’re presenting something that’s wrong, this creates tension. If you’re presenting something in a contrived way, this creates tension. If you’re presenting something in an ugly manner, this creates tension.
The point here is that a designer has an overarching view of this whole potential tension space, meaning that not only are all the potential sources of tension observed at the same time, also the way that they interact and affect each other is also taken into account.
 As a side note it’s interesting to note how you sometimes can feel that you know something is the case although you wouldn’t be able to explain it explicitly. That is, it’s like constantly going around with the equivalent of a tip of the tongue experience but for deeper knowledge, and you’re completely sure of the fact that you would be able to deduce all the necessary argumentative steps as long as you were given ample time to do it. At least, this is something that I’ve experienced many, many times, and it’s almost always the case that once I’ve sorted it all out, what I thought I’d be able to show, I also can show.
 Maybe not straight away if the errors are well hidden and not spotted, but believing something that is wrong will in many cases eventually, directly or indirectly, lead to tension.