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design (v.)

late 14c., "to make, shape," ultimately from Latin designare "mark out, point out; devise; choose, designate, appoint," from de "out" (see de-) + signare "to mark," from signum "identifying mark, sign" (see sign (n.)).

The Italian verb disegnare in 16c. developed the senses "to contrive, plot, intend," and "to draw, paint, embroider, etc." French took both these senses from Italian, in different forms, and passed them on to English, which uses design in all senses.

From 1540s as "to plan or outline, form a scheme;" from 1703 as "to contrive for a purpose." Transitive sense of "draw the outline or figure of," especially of a proposed work, is from 1630s; the meaning "plan and execute, fashion with artistic skill" is from 1660s. The intransitive sense of "do original work in a graphic or plastic art" is by 1854. Also used in 17c. English with the meaning now attached to designate. Related: Designed; designing.

design (n.)

1580s, "a scheme or plan in the mind," from French desseign, desseing "purpose, project, design," from the verb in French (see design (v.)). Especially "an intention to act in some particular way," often to do something harmful or illegal (1704); compare designing. Meaning "adoption of means to an end" is from 1660s.

In art, "a drawing, especially an outline," 1630s. The artistic sense was taken into French as dessin from Italian disegno, from disegnare "to mark out," from Latin designare "mark out, devise, choose, designate, appoint" (which is also ultimately the source of the English verb), from de "out" (see de-) + signare "to mark," from signum "identifying mark, sign" (see sign (n.)).

[T]he artistic sense was taken into Fr. and gradually differentiated in spelling, so that in mod.F. dessein is 'purpose, plan', dessin 'design in art'. Eng. on the contrary uses design, conformed to the verb, in both senses. [OED]

General (non-scheming) meaning "a plan our outline" is from 1590s. Meaning "the practical application of artistic principles" is from 1630s. Sense of "artistic details that go to make up an edifice, artistic creation, or decorative work" is from 1640s.

Design is not the offspring of idle fancy; it is the studied result of accumulative observation and delightful habit. [Ruskin, "Modern Manufacture and Design," 1859]

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Definitions of design from WordNet
1
design (v.)
make or work out a plan for; devise;
design a new sales strategy
Synonyms: plan / project / contrive
design (v.)
plan something for a specific role or purpose or effect;
This room is not designed for work
design (v.)
create the design for; create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner;
Chanel designed the famous suit
design (v.)
make a design of; plan out in systematic, often graphic form;
design a better mousetrap
Synonyms: plan
design (v.)
create designs;
Dupont designs for the house of Chanel
design (v.)
conceive or fashion in the mind; invent;
She designed a good excuse for not attending classes that day
design (v.)
intend or have as a purpose;
She designed to go far in the world of business
2
design (n.)
the act of working out the form of something (as by making a sketch or outline or plan);
he contributed to the design of a new instrument
Synonyms: designing
design (n.)
an arrangement scheme;
it was an excellent design for living
the awkward design of the keyboard made operation difficult
Synonyms: plan
design (n.)
something intended as a guide for making something else;
Synonyms: blueprint / pattern
design (n.)
a decorative or artistic work;
the coach had a design on the doors
Synonyms: pattern / figure
design (n.)
an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions;
he made no secret of his designs
Synonyms: purpose / intent / intention / aim
design (n.)
a preliminary sketch indicating the plan for something;
the design of a building
design (n.)
the creation of something in the mind;
Synonyms: invention / innovation / excogitation / conception
From wordnet.princeton.edu