There have been many threads on Design but I've not seen one that defines the term. Maybe a discussion of design should start with a definition of the term. I found this one while going through book reviews on WoodCentral
Steven Aimon, in his book "Design!" provides a useful definition "Simply put, design is the arrangement of visual elements in space"
Visual elements arrangement in space
We know what a desk, table, chest of drawers or a chair generally looks like and what each is supposed to do. We have a general idea of basic shapes, sizes and components dictated by the piece's function - function being important if we're talking about furniture that can actually be used - and lived with (as opposed to some "studio furniture makers'" "inrerpretation" of a table, chair etc.).
But, given each is about the same size and with the same number of drawers, it's the things that make one chest of drawers more attractive than another that we search for.
Let's start with the "visual elements"
There's a big box with a top, bottom, two sides - and a back you'll seldom see (unless your spouse is one who likes to re-arrange the furniture on a bi-annual or annual basis). From the front we see only the front outline of the box, the edges of the top, bottom and sides. Inside the big box are a series of smaller boxes typically arranged in horizontal layers stacked on top of each other. There may or may not be visual elements separating the drawer boxes. There's likely drawer pulls and something to hold the big outside box off the floor.
Aside from the wood, a big "aside" I'll admit, all we have to work with are a bunch of boxes, with actual thicknesses in the 1/2" to 3/4" thickness range, maybe even 1" thick. Going with a "face frame" the big box visual element can be added to in order to increase the apparentt thickness, and the mass it implies. If that doesn't do it there's always molding and trim. If you want to lighten up the look of the big box then you can chamfer some edges or round them over to make them look thinner/lighter or to make the outline of the big box a bit ambiguous - maybe to make one or more of the smaller boxes more noticable.
Now we've got the little boxes to work with. They can be emphasized or blended together. Drawer dividers can act as visual frames for the drawers. Or, you can go with overlay drawers and chamfer or shape their edges or even add cock beading to make each a visual element. To further distinguish each drawer, you can vary their size or better yet, graduate them, shortest on top and widest on the bottom, or visa versa - but that falls under "arrangement" so let's skip that for now.
Drawer pulls can also be used to either draw attention to the drawers or act as another visual element. Where on each drawer you put them falls under "arrangement".
Edge treatment was touched on earlier, but how they work to change the look of the piece wasn't. Edge treat- ments add new surfaces for light to play with - either to create another plane or two OR to cast a shadow. Shadows can also be visual elements. A plane inset drawer doesn't cast a shadow. An overlay drawer does. But a flush drawer with chamfered edges will have shadows.
One more thing to keep in mind when you're thinking about visual elements - shadows. You don't normally think about shadows - but they can be an important visual element - defining edges and outlines - or not.
Got you thinking yet?
On to "arrangement".
Assuming that there needs to be smaller boxes inside the bigger box, their arrangement is important. For the chest of drawers "box", lets assume you need six drawers, or better yet five. You could stack them on top of each other, and maybe graduate them. Or you could put two side by side - twice and a long one on the bottom. If you go with the side by side thing, what about the left one narrower than the other on the top row, reverse that for the second row and the one long one on the bottom. OR - two narrow ones flanking a wider one on the top and two the same width below. Or ...
You can also use an arrangement that surprises. Sam Maloof does a chair with arms, but the arms are too low to actually rest your arms on when seated. He used the "arms" as structural elements of his chair. The chair seat acts as one leg stretcher - and the "arms" as another. That re-arrangement of parts makes his chair interesting, even if you don't know why. Structurally it's just as strong as the traditional stretcher arrangement.
This can go on and on. Hell, there are four or five types of graduated drawers.
So on to "in space"
The one most often overlooked part of "design" is the "in space" part of design. When "space" IS considered it's usually because the "space" is limited. "Can't be any wider than ... in order to fit in that space."
But "in space" should also be thought of in terms of the context of the space the piece will occupy. A big, overpowering piece in a small room can be a disaster, no matter how good the woodworking, the proportions, and even the wood. By the same token, a small delicate piece in a room full of Greene & Greene pieces just won'tfit in.
"In space" should not only be thought of as the volume the piece will fill, nor just when space is tight. "In space" should also be thought of in terms of context. What space will it live in , and with what other pieces.
just something to think about when designing your next project - or not.