Design Theory 6: In the end does it look good?

Recently I have been yet involved again in a very common design discussion that can be found in both industry and academia, and that is how to you grade, view or access a good design? In other words how do we know if a design is a good one or not? And how can we use this to our advantage to do good design?

I wont go to much into assessment criteria or a creating a structure for it, as far too many papers have been written on this topic, whole masters degrees even, but what I want to talk about today is to pull back this concept on to a much more personal level and on how you would access your own work and your own design view towards good design.
Just like in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking many times our own intuition, innate ability or design sense can be a good primer to help us in a “blink” of an eye determine quickly if a design is a good one or not.
Honestly this will be the main acid test of whether any sketch stays on a table top or goes to the bin. Just like when someone looks at an advertising layout, you have only few precious seconds before a potential buyer loses interest in your design. Thus to do the same, stop, take a step back from your desk, and look at your concept again and ask your self “does it look good”. Chances are you will know what to do after that.
However a few conditions that such a strategy may not apply. For one this strategy is more targeted towards a designer with a few years of experience and a few products under his/her belt. Just like when someone comments on your design, you need to decide if that person is qualified to do so. So similarly you need to ask your self are you qualified to be able to determine what is a good design? Most senior or successful designers are able to. If you are somewhat fresh or have a history in making bad design decisions, or you find you have problems in proportions, you might like to hone and improve your design sense. To do that you would need to look at successful designs and ask yourself why these products or designs are successful. To see deeper into things not just look.
To me this design sense is one of the most important things to have if you want to be a successful designer, and perhaps why an experienced designers with a successful portfolio, will always be in very high demand. Oh one more thing I have seen experience designers or design managers who have poor design sense as well, so go figure? And guess what, they tendency to be not as successful.

  • Design Translator

    March 4, 2007 at 8:03 pm Reply

    Absolutely! Sometimes we just need to go back and rely on common sense and logic. But the problem is designers tend to get myopic when they work so long on a particular project.
    Thanks for visiting!

  • William Lehman

    March 4, 2007 at 4:28 am Reply

    It seems to come back to the root of why we create in the first place. Besides just being functional. I can tell if a chair is a successful design by sitting in it and seeing if it is comfortable. Why is such a foundational principal so often looked over and ignored though?
    Design is something that looks at big picture elements. We can look too close, too long on something and lose focus of the original intent very easily. What becomes skewed is the intent. Which is probably the sign of a burnt-out designer.

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