Edit: As this is meant to be a living document, I have updated it to reflect my most recent thinking. The original was published on 26th March 2008, just over 2 years ago.
I used to see myself as a person who has an aesthetic that flows with the different trends of the time. Thus I never really thought of generating something holistic like this. Recently, I am starting to realize there is a lot of value in having some kind of personal design philosophy tucked away somewhere.
Similar to a mission statement, a personal design philosophy defines a designer’s view on life. Along the same lines of thinking, Dieter Rams’ 10 Design Commandments helped define him as a designer, and perhaps by identifying my own principles or laws, I could better define myself as well.
The other reason why I think this blog is a great place to put up my design principles, is that it allows this to be a living document that is constantly in Beta. So here we go, and please be gentle as this list is by no means final?
[ Good Design ] ~
1. is a good investment.
This originally started as “Good Design is Good Business” courtesy of Mr. Watson. However in today’s commercial environment, I belief most people understand this concept. Unfortunately not many actually see it as an investment that has tangible returns. Therefore most Return on Investment (ROI) calculations can be applied here. This means there has to be risk assessments, planning, budget controls, and long term goals set out. Design should never be just about making something look good and flogging it for extra cash.
2. is all encompassing.
Good design is all encompassing and unifying. It should not just be about the product or look. It should include every single aspect that revolves around a product, including things like user interface, packaging and branding etc.
3. does not exist in vacuum.
Nothing comes from nothing. I find the best designs works best for the context it was developed in. Good understanding of user needs, a critical insight on a problem, and a well-defined brief is important for producing the good design.
4. satisfies all requirements.
A design solution cannot be successful if it does not satisfy all the requirements of the user, business and development constraints. This is more about prioritizing rather than about compromise. Pick your fights, learn to negotiate, and make sure you win the war not the battle.
5. is beautiful.
I don’t think too much needs to be said here, except our visual sense is one of the strongest of our 5 senses. There is no justification for ugly and over styled products. In other words you cannot polish crap. So it is better to be self-critical always, rather than face the consequences when the market tells you otherwise.
6. is innovative, logical and clever.
Good design does not stop at being beautiful. Good design goes beyond aesthetics, as it also needs to be an innovative and clever solution that evokes an emotional response from the user. Good design just makes sense.
7. is intuitive and uncomplicated.
This is my latest addition. Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Making a product simple to use, intuitive and uncomplicated is probably one of the hardest things for a designer to do. It requires passion and dedication at every stage of the products’ development cycle.
8. is strategic.
This last one, I think is the most important. Design can and should be applied in all aspects of an organization. My favorite thought is that, Design should be a vital function in any organization, just like finance, accounting or logistics etc. This way Design is involved at the highest level of decision-making, and part of why an organization exists.
So what do you think of my Principles of Good Design? I think it still needs some work, and can be made a lot simpler. I will leave it like this for now as I do intend to update this post from time to time. Also why not have your say by sharing your own Principles of Good Design for discussion? I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Brian is a multidisciplinary Design Leader with more than 18 years of experience leading strategic design programs that drives successful Brands and Fortune 500 businesses such as GE, Philips, Nakamichi, Flextronics, Ericsson, Hannspree, and HP. His passion is in helping organisations leverage on Design Driven Innovation to make people’s lives better.