Just curious what it means to you, cause sometimes I feel like I forget and think the sound that I should make must be the biggest, coolest and most unnatural thing ever, and its not just all about that..
I can only describe sound design as it pertains to film (I don't personally believe game sound design & film have much in common, nor have any motivation to generalise the term beyond its original meaning) so film sound design to me involves consideration of every element of the soundtrack relative to the story it is helping to convey. I do not personally subscribe to the description of sound designer being the person who makes weird/unreal/designy sounds - at most thats just one element of a scene, and it may well be a subtle piece of foley or just the right ambience at a certain point that contributes as much to story telling as the designy elements. The aim is to work at multiple perceptual levels: zooming out so you have an overall view of the evolution & role of the entire soundtrack (and eg can see how establishing a certain sound in R1 means it can be applied to emotional effect in R4 or whatever) as well as at a macro level where attention to detail is critical eg the gentlest of skin touches may be the most important sound at a given moment, and have more profound meaning than the loudest flashiest transforminator sound effects. Collaborating with production sound, composers, dialogue, ADR, sound effects editors, foley and of course the director, picture editor & producer are all a fundamental part of film sound design, and the more you know about & understand their roles, the better you will be at your own - film is all based on collaboration.
thats just my NZ$0.05 anyway
As with art in general, it's about describing an alternative reality, in this case by using sound. You deal or can deal with some similar constraints or concepts as in the physical or rational/spiritual worlds as well as some imposed constraints (technical, physical) as in the real world, but art is, in a way, a more limitless way of expression and can describe things that don't exist in ways or languages that can be freely defined.
The essence is what the sound conveys (or tries to convey) and describes. It doesn't even require a picture to go with it, even though the auditory and visual arts have formed art forms where the two combine.