Bridging The Language Gap: Who Cares about My Design?

Edit: Rephrased and re-edited the post. I did not like the tone of the original post, it was written in a hurry and I was tired.

A fictional discussion at a studio near you.
Friend: Designers need to loosen up.
Me: Yeah? How so?
Friend: Designers occasionally take their design work too seriously. The rest of the world just takes design at “face value”.
Me (In a philosophical voice): This organic form reflects the beauty of natural elements that are found in plants and nature…
Friend (In an also philosophical voice): Yes this forward leaning tilt represents a strong iconic aesthetic that reflects pride in ownership blah blah…People don’t really care, it is just not as important to them.
Me: This looks like one of the “Gaps” in the thinking between Design and Business eh?

The only people who really care how about how a design is meant to look are designers. The rest of the world just considers our designs at face value. In other words, if its crap no amount of justification is going to cut it. Philosophical talk is dangerous and can result in mental masturbation.
Don’t blame us designers; it is just how we are wired. All our lives, we are taught to justify our designs and design work. What they did not tell us was justifying designs was really meant for designers to learn how we came about creating said designs. It was about structuring and giving meaning to design, not for defending it.
Therefore when we (designers) look at designs, we automatically decode them to “see” and appreciate the meaning, inspiration and intelligence behind the form or solution. Unfortunately, the rest of the world just takes it straight up, and at the end of the day, it really comes down to whether people intuitively “get it” or not.
So the next time our clients don’t seem to “get” our designs, take a step back and consider our work objectively and at face level and see how it goes?

  • Cheryl

    February 24, 2009 at 11:32 am Reply

    I cannot help but agree to this post. Very often, when I show my friends design websites that have products that are unconventional, aesthetically pleasing but less functional, or product designs that tell a story, they would often misinterpret the designer’s intentions and take it at face value.
    Sometimes, they would remark that ‘the design does not make sense’. Perhaps designers are too caught up in creating something different that they neglect what consumers are really looking for? Even though ‘lifestyle’ products are becoming more popular amongst consumer these days, the functional aspect still cannot be neglected. When creating a product too minimalistic, or too gimmicky, designers often get too caught up with the semantics and emotional value of the product that the pragmatic aspect is compromised.
    That being said, I do believe that it is still possible to design something different and let the product speak for itself to the consumers. Besides good visual communication and a product where form follows function, consumers need to be able to relate to the product with the most mundane things in their everyday life. This does not mean that our designs become literal because that just makes a product kitsch and gimmicky.
    There is probably no formula to bridging the language gap, but perhaps in some phase of our design process, we can take a step back and really seek the opinions or people who are not in the design field. Their opinions may or may not affect the final outcome of the design, but at least, it would help in bridging the language gap.
    I guess if we want people to care about our design, we got to care about their opinions.

  • Marc Rapp

    January 26, 2009 at 7:30 am Reply

    Client education is a full time job in itself.
    Interesting post.

  • Calvin

    January 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Very interesting take on the subject.
    I totally agree that the only people who care are designers.
    when i first started out i took design at face value.
    as i matured and progressed i found myself constantly asking questions about why someone would do that or how?
    i either look at someones work with great envy or great pity.
    A lot of the time i find myself justifying my designs to my boss only to then go back to the drawing board to make something that evidently just “LOOKS GOOD” 🙁
    great post

  • Rashid

    January 18, 2009 at 12:43 pm Reply

    This post sounded as if it is almost related to the previous post regarding Jane’s question on her non-design trained boss.

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