Events / live blogging / Inspiration

6 thoughts on design, inspired by 1D4D

#1D4D is today’s tag of choice for designers. Standing for 1 Day For Design, it’s throwing up a host of useful thoughts on the nature of design. Here are some of mine…

1) Design isn’t just visual.

Mention design to anyone and they’ll think of graphic design. But the definition is so much wider than that. My own version is:

Someone who creates solutions to bridge a gap between minds and creates a common language.

To me, that covers everything from a logo to a chair, an app interface to a spoon. Whatever the design is, it connects people or acts as an enabler to realise vision. (The designer of a gearbox cog is as important as the designer of the bodywork – because what’s the use of a gorgeous car/plane if it doesn’t move?)

A designer can therefore bridge the gap between the mind of the inventor and the end user, or encourage interaction between like-minds.

@dionne02 suggests that designers are also translators, and @natalka01 builds on this to suggest interpreters.

I love both of these definitions as they suggest that the designer creates value for the recipient of the design. And that’s important.

2) Design must be in line with strategy

This is me with my client-side head on. Whatever design is being worked on must back up key, core, business objectives.

A criticism often levelled at the advertising industry is that the ads are clever for the sake of being clever. Pretty pictures and clever metaphors are all very well and good, but if they don’t back up the key business/project objectives, they’re not worth a whole lot.

Some designers don’t like being questioned on how their work will further my strategic objectives. They have huffed.

The best designers I’ve worked with have explained the how and why, even before they’ve shown me the comps.

3) Great design goes unnoticed. Bad design hurts

The London Tube map is a great example of this. It’s so amazingly simple to use that it must have taken an age to work out. It is, truly, great design.

The best 3d design in films goes unnoticed because it adds to the story. It doesn’t jar you or make you marvel at the technical skill of the designers, missing plotline as you do so.

Bad design, on the other hand, actually hurts. It hurts my brain because it makes the core of the product so much harder to access. Would you sit on a badly designed chair if you didn’t have to? Would you bother to find out more about a product if the poster featured poorly cut-out stock photography over an ill-thought-out background?

I feel sorry for some truly great designers. Their problem is that their design is so good, that it complements the end product so well, that it blends into the whole rather than standing out on its own. (There’s a compliment in there).

4) Designers mustn’t be afraid of restrictions

Point 20 on my Manifesto sings the praises of restrictions:

“…limitations on what we can do can inspire creativity. So the client tells you that you’ve got to use Times New Roman 14pt on their letter head and that, if you use anything else, you’ll be kicked off the brief. Great – play with TNR and see what it can do for you to enhance the project. There’ll be something interesting in there that you can use.”

If you’re told that the world is your oyster, you’ve got a billion different options to play with (whatever you’re designing).

But if you’re told exactly who the end user is, you’ve got something to work towards – and suddenly things get a lot clearer. And if you’re being really restricted by the client, you’ve got the option to take their restrictions and deliver them something totally unexpected from the deepest, darkest corner of those restrictions.

5) Design is about people

All design is about people. Whether it’s eyeballs, hands, buttocks or noses, you product design is going to be used and appreciated by real flesh-and-blood people.

Even if you design a revolutionary new widget that’s buried deep in an engine and will never be seen by anyone, you are designing something that will make the end user’s experience that little bit better.

Design of anything that ignores the end user will fail.

6) Design is essential.

I can’t think of anything useful or accessible that hasn’t been designed.

The design of my spoon ensures that it’s easy for me to eat soup. The design of my mug ensures that my tea doesn’t slop out when I pick it up.

Design is essential to help us navigate the world around us.

These are just some thoughts formed from the first few hours of #1D4D. I’d love to hear yours…

So - what did you think? Love it? Loathe it? Have something to add? Well, what are you waiting for?

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