"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer and poet
Whenever you work with a designer, it is important to understand how they think about and approach design. While you may not agree with everything they believe, it’s good to understand what their perspective is. These are a few of my own:
Good design feels effortless and obvious. You know a good design when you see it, and I believe this results from paring down the design to its essence and letting its primary function shine through. That’s why I personally gravitate towards clean, minimalist design in my work.
Treat users the way you would treat yourself. Companies that don’t won’t win in the long run. Too often user needs get subjugated to business objectives that lead to dark patterns or kludgy experiences. The equation is simple. Do the right thing for your users and you will be rewarded with their business and loyalty.
Creating a good experience is more than about designing dozens of pages of wireframes. Too often these artifacts are made without thinking critically about what a project needs. Depending on the context of a project, it may be better to build a coded prototype or an animation. The goal should be to use the right method and artifact to communicate and achieve the vision.
I firmly believe in the power of prototyping and testing. Especially early on in a product lifecycle, you don’t know what you don’t know. And because of the invariable grind of achieving a design that everyone likes, you may be tempted to forgo testing. But it is vital to do user testing to ensure you are building the right design, and “right” must be measured by what your users find valuable and desirable.
As a lover of design details, I believe that attention to detail is what differentiates good design from great design. Everything from button states to microinteractions are critical to creating a successful user experience. These details create the feeling of the brand and they can be used to teach users with motion and subtlety. Therefore these details can not and should not be overlooked.
Data isn’t the same as insight. Gathering tons of research and measurements are a means to an end, but not the end unto itself. Divining insight from a mountain of data takes skill, and it is only when actionable insight is discovered that the research yields fruit. Research without synthesis and strategy is meaningless. You must find the signal from the noise.
With the growing popularity of design thinking, what has been lost is the soul of the approach itself, which is to say that design thinking is about learning by doing. You learn through making, prototyping, testing. And as such, I believe in design “doing”.
Focusing on the user is important, and it’s central to the work that all designers do. BUT we also need to think about the impact that our work has on the environment, on communities, and on society itself. Uber increases traffic in dense urban populations, and contributes to economic instability for people in the gig economy. Facebook sells users’ data and negatively affects people’s happiness. Now that design has a seat at the table, it must do more than just produce positive business results; it must also provide leadership on making a more inclusive, ethical, and socially responsible world.