I think I have maybe 20 books about design and the latest fad or explanation when it comes to what design is. The one thing I’ve learned from all of them is that design is hard to pin down, because design is everything. If we make a thing, regardless of intent, that thing is designed. It doesn’t matter if the design is accidental or haphazard or not thought through. It’s still designed.
This is why anyone who has the intent to create stuff that other people use should know design theory.
Without it we end up with social media based on an economy of attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad attention. The fact that it is attention is enough. I keep harping on about responsibility and ethics and taking your responsibility and being aware of what it means when you create something, and all of that has a point. If you don’t know design theory or ethics in design, if you don’t take responsibility or think a few steps ahead when creating a system, you’ll end up with Twitter, one of the most harasser friendly social media there is. Or you’ll create Facebook, where right wing extremists get a free pass while women posting images of themselves nursing their babies get blocked and thrown off the service.
You’ll end up with VR-games where the first experience a woman has is that of being harassed and with no way to stop it.
Read them. Understand where in the ecology of design that you fit in, and what you need to do to avoid causing harm.