A Book Apart

Elizabeth McGuane Design by Definition

Give your design project clarity, precision, and purpose.

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When we think of design primarily in terms of visual representation, we neglect an essential piece of the creative process. The words we use to form concepts can also powerfully shape a design project from start to finish—giving clarity to goals, precision to names and structure, and purpose to stylistic choices.

Elizabeth McGuane offers a fresh, empowering framework for design. Drawing from her experience on the forefront of web, mobile, and product design, she shows us how to harness the potency of words and language to uplift and illuminate rather than encumber. Learn how to effectively apply semantic concepts, use language to frame design problems clearly, and integrate elements of style such as metaphor and nomenclature, to strengthen your design process.

This book explores:

  • Frameworks for building shared language and strengthening collaboration
  • How to practically incorporate semantic concepts into any design process
  • Steps for addressing product and design evolution through concept definition

At its heart, this powerful little book is about how to think deeply, clearly, and humanely about solving hard problems—with and for real people. Its message is relevant for those designing digital software, and for anyone striving to make meaning, build understanding, and create alignment in work and life.

Amy Thibodeau
Design director at Gusto
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Words are slippery. Elizabeth captures them with adeptness and poetic prose, perfectly explaining how they shepherd us along the winding path of product development. This book has invaluable advice for anyone who communicates or makes things with other humans.

Randall Snare
Content design director at Meta
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Whether we design with pixels or pencil marks on paper, we use words to share ideas. Elizabeth presents us with a roadmap for embracing the importance of words and shared language, and reminds us that when done intentionally, writing is a joyful act and the most galvanizing part of the entire creative process.

Stewart Scott-Curran
Cofounder and creative director at Design Business Company
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Elizabeth McGuane

About the Author

Elizabeth McGuane is a user experience design director and content designer who got her start in newspapers in 2003, then pivoted to UX design in 2007. Currently, she leads large, multidisciplinary design teams that include product designers, developers, researchers and content designers, solving problems in wayfinding, communication, and cross-platform design. Elizabeth divides her time between Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada.

Product Details

  • ISBN: 978-1-952616-57-0
  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Published: Jul 25, 2023

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