“Good design is good design” is a phrase I often find myself saying, whether it’s to someone I’m instructing, a prospective client, or in agreement with a coworker. (My other go-to phrase is “Don’t design in a vacuum,” but that’s a post for another day.)
When I first became a designer I was using Letraset and X-acto knives, and was hogging any computer I could get my hands on. Today I am much more likely to be presenting on a screen than with something I’ve painted or printed, and most of the time I’ve created a concept that’s been handed off to someone to program and execute for an online project.
Whether it’s a website, an app, or a printed piece . . . What makes a design good? It’s pretty basic, really. What all good designs have in common are clarity, readability, being true to the medium (web, print, music, writing, and so on), and being true to the subject matter—a financial website shouldn’t look the same as Chuck E. Cheese’s. If it does, that’s a mighty interesting banking concept.
“The details are not the details. They make the design.”
And design isn’t limited to paper or a screen. Your toothbrush was designed by someone who knows how to get the right amount of bristles to hold the correct portion of toothpaste. The chair you’re sitting in had an ergonomic designer that took into account the height of the average person, as well as the ease of adjusting the chair in case you don’t happen to be average height. Not only is everything you see on your smartphone’s screen designed, but so is its case, the size and heft in your hand, and everything else down to its headphone jack and microphone placement. All were optimized for the most satisfying and useful user experience. When it works right, it’s amazing. When it’s poorly designed, you’ll know it.