Why don't people complain about Good Design?

I know I do, I always swear like a “Potty Mouth” when ever I stumble over any kind of great Industrial Design work.
Even though I am from sunny Singapore, I rarely actually comment about the local design industry back home. Why? Well you know the old “taking a dump in your own back yard etc.” and I have tons of great designer friends that I love there as well.
Anyways I recently stumbled on a post at Tomorrow.sg, a Singaporean blog aggregator, that takes designer Nick Pan’s post on the Singapore Design Festival 2007, totally mis-interprets him and twists his words into the usual anti-government whine that is a great waste of time and tax-payers money blah blah. What that “Anonymous Coward”, and I dare say an idiot, got wrong is that he/she either misunderstood Nick or just stirring up a hornets nest. Here is Nick’s quote in full:

I’m so glad Singapore embarks onto stuff like that, but do general Singaporeans appreciate design at all? Ask your fellow Singaporean friend “When was the last time design mattered to you?” If the person waited for 5 seconds, then design does not really matter to him / her.
Personally I think design is way way important, its like why have something when you can have it well designed as well. There is always a stigma as well that “Designer stuff” is expensive, but do you know that everyday stuff like the bus stop, traffic lights, even your humble tissue packet needs to be designed, design is not just posters and fancy products… design is a way of life (wah damn cliché statement, but its true!).

Yeah If you just focused on the first paragraph, as was quoted on Tomorrow.sg, I too would be stirred.
However I like to also comment on Nick’s post as well. Nobody complaints about Good Design because it is seamless. It works so naturally to your needs that you don’t feel it. That to me is good design. If you have the eye to see it, Singapore actually has one of the best designed environments in the world. If the locals only knew how lucky they are…
Unfortunately there is just too much Press emphasis on the “Glamor” designer or the “Super Star” designer. As a result of this advertising success, not only people in Singapore, but people in the rest of the world often associate good design to be really a very small subset of the Design profession. The reality is, as Nick says, someone had to design your toothbrush, your door handle, your power socket, your umbrella, your street signs, your traffic lights etc. of which doing without how much less a quality of life would we have?
So now let’s join hands and swear in the name of all good design for a change?
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Slightly off topic: With regards to the nay-sayer comments about the Singapore Design Festival (SDF) being a waste of time. Singapore has no natural resources except the smarts of its citizens. So if such an activity promotes or brands the fact that Singaporeans are cleverly creative and forward looking (such as the SDF), then I am whole heartily all for it. Think about it.

5 Comments
  • Saikat

    November 28, 2007 at 2:51 pm Reply

    I feel the irony of good design is that sometimes they are so well done that “the design” of it is never even noticed consciously by the users! It truly becomes our ‘part of life’.
    If there is any visual or functional hitch in any design then only users notice it.

  • DT

    November 29, 2007 at 11:20 am Reply

    Hi Saikat,
    I totally agree, people only make noise when things are bad. We should celebrate good design lots more.

  • David Oliver

    December 8, 2007 at 1:07 am Reply

    I think you’re right about good design being seemless.
    The one thing I would add is that sometimes design is not noticed because it is expected.
    There are lots of examples of not so well designed products that people don’t complain about because they cannot imagine them being different or better. These products slip under the radar of the user. Occasionally, a product comes along that reimagines what could be and raises the bar for a category.

  • DT

    January 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm Reply

    Hi David,
    Those are excellent points. A great example is what Apple did with the iPod or Symbian with its mobile operating system. People struggle with difficult to use Mp3 players and Pocket PC operating systems, because they did not know any better.
    When Apple turned up with the iPod, they shook the world!
    Thanks for stopping by and please keep do in touch.

  • Make Every Bit of a Design

    May 8, 2009 at 9:04 am Reply

    […] covers every possible problem by the removal of such

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