Good Design and Why Simple Is Difficult

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 consumers, so that they will choose to buy from you rather than your competitors. Many factors will influence design decisions, such as required functionality, available resources, the target audience and brand identity. However 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, 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. Perhaps the most commonly found characteristic when looking at good design is simplicity, which should not be confused with simplistic. 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 or brings order to complexity, removes barriers to understanding and provides 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. There are also likely to be real world constraints, such as available budget, resources and timelines to be met, along with materials, personnel and many other factors. Seek a balance 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.

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

Posted in Design.