P. I. O'Leary had been editor of the Catholic newspaper, the Advocate, for twenty years when he established his own magazine, Design in 1940. According to O'Leary's first editorial, Design was to 'appear quarterly till we have said what we have to say'.
Advocating a 'philosophy of commonsense', Design presented an anti-modernist position, arguing that a common outlook was needed to reverse the obscurity of modern art. Believing that poets are inspired by a 'vision of what is good', Design hoped to revive the 'human personality' and its 'spiritual inheritance': 'Man is not merely an individual, one of many, but also, a person, an end in himself'.
O'Leary attracted contributions from Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne, including the work of Paul Grano, Rex Ingamells, R. H. Croll, Mary Finnin, Ian Mudie, P. R Stephensen and Max Harris (qq.v.), reciprocating promotion in other magazines such as the Publicist, Manuscripts and Venture.
Despite O'Leary's enthusiasm, war-time restrictions made it difficult to consolidate on the positive reception of the first issues. A July issue was not produced, the third issue finally appearing in December 1940 with the announcement that it would be the last until after the war. But, despite this hopeful note, Design was not revived.