Good Design and Why Simple Is Difficult

How important is good design to you and how would you define it? You might have heard that content is king and substance more important than style, but when choosing between competing products or services how important is the way that they make you feel. Although they should deliver the results that we want, most of us appreciate beauty and enjoy using things that are easy to understand.

Good Design and Why Simple Is Difficult

Design Concepts

Design is the organisation of elements with a defined purpose and can be found all around us in the products and services that we use each day. The quality of that design can vary greatly, but typical objectives of design include making something easier to use, better performing and more appealing to customers, when compared to products or services available from competitors.

Basic design concepts include; scale, proportion, balance, harmony, contrast and the use of space and colour. When designing a product or service consider who will be using it and under what conditions. You could begin writing and sketching ideas on a piece of paper. New ideas could be inspired by the natural world, or cultural works such as great art and architecture.

Design Decisions

Many factors will influence design decisions, for example the required functionality, available resources, the target audience and brand identity. We live in a world that is saturated with information and a huge variety of products, making it difficult for any one thing to attract our attention. Good design aims to achieve this and provide a positive user experience for those using a product or service, helping to increase sales and market share.

The form and function of objects such as cars, books, furniture, textiles, packaging materials, architecture and web design can differ greatly. However good design often shares certain characteristics and although not always easy to describe in words, we can experience these qualities and feel the effect they have upon us. One of the most common characteristics found when looking at good design is simplicity, which should not be confused with simplistic.

Reducing Complexity

A product or service which cannot be improved by anything being added or removed, is likely to be more appealing and intuitive than another which includes unnecessary and confusing details. People like to feel in control and when they do not understand something it can leave them feeling confused and frightened. Good design reduces complexity and brings order to chaos, removing barriers to understanding and providing a better user experience.

Although most individuals and organisations want to provide their customers with well designed products and user experiences, the apparent simplicity of good design is difficult to achieve. This is because reducing something to its essential elements requires a deep understanding of a product or service, so that nothing required is removed and nothing remains unless needed.

Practical Constraints

In the real world, there are likely to be practical constraints placed upon a design, such as available budget, resources, time and personnel. A balance should be found between competing forces, to deliver a design with the essence of what is needed. During the design process, ask yourself what purpose each element plays, or if it is mere decoration. Taking an evolutionary approach, you could test and refine your ideas until a solution is found that best meets your requirements.

Sometimes being too radical can confuse people, reducing usability, for example a unique navigation menu on a website. Referencing something familiar can improve usability, such as when computer desktops make use of icons to represent folders and files. Words can have impact when clear and to the point, whilst suitable images can be universal. Good design often has a timeless quality, rather than chasing after the latest fashions and is therefore more likely to have longer term success.

You might like to read a sample of the book Island of Arts and Crafts

Posted in Communication.