Five principles towards becoming a better designer

Graphic work

Image via Wikipedia

This post was inspired by a twitter quote from @leeclowsbeard:

Do not confuse purity of design with purity of message. One can make some remarkably stupid ideas look breathtaking.

Of course the quote is not proposing that one tries to dolly up stupid ideas! To the contrary I believe in good design as the cornerstone of success. But that begs the question: What is good design?

Well after some discussion with Peter Brooks on Facebook (@fustbariclation on twitter) I came to the conclusion that this is a rather difficult question to answer… We know good design when we see it, but is there a definite path to achieving it? I suppose not, otherwise all designers would be insanely rich and all designs insanely great… Clearly that is not the case…

But maybe there is some basic principles that can help us in the right direction.  (Bear in mind that I come from a software design background and not an arty one… this is therefore for me related to IT-related artifacts, not art work!)

1. Understand the need, or get the customer perspective.  What exactly is your design suppose to achieve for the eventual user? Strange to me how some companies manage to create a market for things they don’t quite know what its purpose is… the iPad springs to mind!? (Well actually maybe a nice toy to play with is a purpose, but really…)

2. Develop a feel for aesthetics, be able to tell when something looks nice.  Start thinking about what you see: the world is full of beautiful things (in nature, for example) and unfortunately there’s ample not-so-good-looking samples around as well.  Look with new eyes at the world (assuming you’re a techie like me)

3. Apply solid engineering principles, because remember it must be able to fill the need, work smoothly and last.  To design something with these objectives in mind is not easy; often

4. Relentlessly pursue different options; never, ever be happy with your first attempt.  However, also be careful that you don’t fail to the other side in becoming so worried about not having a perfect design or all the answers that you fail to grasp the opportunities around you. Remember the first option almost never the best; in any case how would you know if you only have one?

5. Go for simplicity, don’t complicate a design by designing too many things.  Get over your Swiss-Army-Knife syndrome, don’t try to be everything to everybody — it just does not work that way; solve one problem at a time, and solve it well!

Going for gold when applying each of these principles will, I believe, help you become a better designer.

What do you think? What should we do to become better designers? (at least of IT systems,  presentations, and other non-arty artifacts I deal with)

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