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Design: A Jewel of the Mind


Design: A Jewel of the Mind


In this short, inspiring article, Susan Meier explains why designing is a necessary human function. 

As some of you may know, making jewelry has been a long-time passion of mine. Since being transfixed at the age of 6 by the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibit, I have been on a quest to view and later make beautiful, twinkly objects that serve as wearable art, communicators of emotions, and keepers of stories. 

I invite you to join me and a handful of other artisan jewelry makers at our upcoming show at the Jewelry Library next week. In the meantime, I’ve been ruminating on the nature of design, in all its forms.

To design is to think.

Perhaps my favorite thing about jewelry – and design in general – is how fundamentally human it is. Adornment is a universal human behavior. More broadly, the desire and ability to express ourselves visually is at the essence of our humanity. Recent research found that the ability to recognize and develop intuitions about certain shapes is unique to our species. And the usage of symbolism is a hallmark of abstract thought, which is a uniquely human skill.

 Jewelry is one of the first tangible examples of design created by our distant ancestors. The earliest known jewelry is a series of thirteen shells drilled with matching holes and painted with red ochre. These 82,000-year-old little shell beads were found intact in the Grotte des Pigeons in eastern Morocco. More than just the remnants of a necklace, these tiny beads mark the beginning of sophisticated human thought and behavior. 

To design is to connect.

Design carries symbolic messages that only humans can create, and those messages resonate deeply with other humans.


Key points include:

  • Visual language
  • Symbolic message
  • Tactile expression

Read the full post, To Design Is Human, on