• Maheen Awan

Subtlety Of Great Design

To start off: What does design actually mean?


Design holds different meanings in different fields. Two people saying they are designers does not automatically conclude that they share common ground. One could be a graphic designer while the other an engineering designer. Design seems to be a very vague term in today’s day and age, when there are dozens of types of design. No matter which design field though, they all have one aspect in common – A designer is supposed to be a problem-solver, and he can do that by creating good design. A question that may then arise is “what is good design”? Personally, any kind of design, be it service, product or graphic, unlike art, is there to fulfill a purpose, hence needs to be executed well enough to perform in the manner intended. Fundamentally, it should be tailored for human use.


Eslam Tawakol, in his article Good Design vs. Bad Design, highlighted how good design is one that fills the gap between business goals and user needs. He stressed that certain processes must be followed, which take into consideration best practices of user experience and usability guidelines to produce desired outcomes. He goes on to say, “A good designer knows how to get into the mindset of his users, and turns their needs into a meaningful, desirable, and easy-to-use product or service.”


Steve Amara, a UX designer, finds that “Good design should be simple, usable and accessible. It should feel good and make the user feel good. Only then shall we think about making it look good.”


To extend this thought, good, nay, great design should be inspirational and impactful yet formal, pragmatic and conceptual in its application in order for it to enhance the user’s experience. It should provide a solution to an existing problem by constituting all technological and aesthetical constructs of design. If not, it can and will ultimately fail. Marcin Treder says, “… in the Age of Design, a good design mark might be a highway to success for any product and bad design may doom anything.”


But what does good or great design entail? What are we referring to? Function? Aesthetics? Experience? Longevity? I believe everyone has their own scale of certain qualities which they use to determine how they feel about the product or service in use. My professors, classmates and I conducted an activity in-class to create our own understanding of good and poor design by trying to develop a scale to measure it against. An in-depth discussion (read: multiple passionate arguments) led to the conclusion that everyone has their own take on this topic; similarly, everyone uses different qualities to define good or poor design, confirming what I already held to be true. Our class discussion mainly revolved around what the major determining categories should be, and what sub-categories they should possess.

We started off with 3 basic classifications: 1. Function 2. Experience 3. Sustainability. We called this the Good Design Index. Further discussion led to an array of sub-categories such as; usability, lifespan, aesthetics, accessibility, ethics, emotional attachment, sense stimulation. The more we got into it, the more we all realized that all these qualities fall under different categories for each individual. Eventually, we all decided to keep it simple and went with the following 6 qualities as the determining factors:

  1. Usefulness

  2. Experience (Good/Bad)

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable)

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical)

  5. Aesthetics

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex)

The main factors I usually base my decision, of whether a product or service provides value, on are:

  1. Usability – Am I able use the product or service to achieve a defined goal effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily?

  2. Accessibility – Are all contents of the product or service fully functional and available to, and usable by people with disabilities and/or of lower socioeconomic classes? This, I believe, is usually an afterthought in the design process.

  3. Experience – Does the product or service engage my senses? Do I derive satisfaction after using it? Does it fulfill my need or want? Is it relevant in the context I am using it in?

Using the model developed during our discussions in class, I will test 3 product variations and see how they measure up against each other:



Suitcase 4 wheels vs. 2 wheels:

4 wheels:

  1. Usefulness - 10/10

  2. Experience (Good/Bad) - 10/10

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable) - 7/10

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical) - 5/10

  5. Aesthetics - 10/10

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex) - 10/10

Total: 52


2 wheels:

  1. Usefulness - 8/10

  2. Experience (Good/Bad) - 4/10

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable) - 7/10

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical) - 5/10

  5. Aesthetics - 5/10

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex) - 5/10

Total: 34


Sippy Bottle vs. Normal:

Sippy:

  1. Usefulness - 10/10

  2. Experience (Good/Bad) - 10/10

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable) - 7/10

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical) - 5/10

  5. Aesthetics - 10/10

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex) - 10/10

Total: 52


Normal:

  1. Usefulness - 10/10

  2. Experience (Good/Bad) - 6/10

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable) - 7/10

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical) - 5/10

  5. Aesthetics - 6/10

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex) - 6/10

Total: 40


Peeler vs. Knife: Sole purpose of peeling, not cutting

Peeler:

  1. Usefulness - 10/10

  2. Experience (Good/Bad) - 10/10

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable) - 10/10

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical) - 8/10

  5. Aesthetics- 10/10

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex) - 10/10

Total: 58


Knife:

  1. Usefulness - 4/10

  2. Experience (Good/Bad) - 4/10

  3. Sustainability (Sustainable/Unsustainable) - 10/10

  4. Ethics (Ethical/Unethical) - 8/10

  5. Aesthetics - 6/10

  6. Ease of Use (Simple/Complex) - 4/10

Total: 36


I would like to leave you with a parting thought. How many times have you appreciated a product or service because of how well it is performing? Rarely ever. Why? Because we expect it to perform flawlessly. That’s the entire point. Now think about this; how many times have you been frustrated and overwhelmed by a product or service because of its poor quality and performance? Yeah, almost always, whenever the tiniest hitch occurs. As Don Norman has said, “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.”

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