6 General Design Principles To Live By
I’ve taken design very seriously throughout my life. When I was young we didn’t have TV so I was forced to mold a creative mind. Perhaps it started with crayons and building forts outside but I was fascinated with designing something then attempting to actually create it. Most of the time it didn’t turn out how I wanted because I was about 8 years old but the vision was there and that’s all that mattered.
As I grow into my adult years I’m starting to take real life design concepts and putting them back into society as an actual product – it’s by far one of the most rewarding feelings when you start from scratch and eventually have a tangible finished product – especially on the iPad 🙂
Most of my work is digital products as of now, but I am slowly moving into fashion merchandising and sporting goods. I have in fact started to mock up designs and thoughts of my dream house, however, I’m far away from knowing what I really want. But most importantly there’s a vision being born.
You can see how important design actually is with some of the world’s best products. As I sit here in Starbucks in Raleigh, NC and look at my iPhone4, I’m thinking to myself how it is probably one of the best-designed products the world has seen. I wonder how much different the iPhone5 would have turned out if Steve Jobs was still around? Better yet, the boat he designed has just been built. His biography goes into depth about the design principles he set forth for the boat. It’s quite remarkable.
So how does great design influence a generation of superb product development?
1) Good products will market themselves by piggybacking on consumers. This statement is true for many products and brands in the world. Think about how many times you’ve seen somebody using a product or wearing a specific article of clothing that catches your attention. To further stress this point a man actually just walked up to me as I’m writing this article to ask me where my bright blue Adidas Red Card Cancer shirt was from, which made me very proud since it was partially my design that caught his eye in a Starbucks full a people.
2) Don’t settle for the first design. So many times I’ve designed something in one shot and was relatively happy with it. But don’t rest on your laurels. Dig a little deeper and start adding subtle details to things that add to the experience. It takes a very detail oriented person to stop and look at every element of a product and figure out how to make it better.
Should we add a trim to that border? Should we bring the windows to the absolute edge of the ceiling? Should we change the bricks to match the roof? What if we use a low opacity background pattern for this app? I’m curious, what are some other options we can use here? Ask yourself questions after you think a product is finished. Step away and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Maybe even get peoples input too – those on your team and just regular people not associated with the project. They will also open your eyes to things you didn’t notice sometimes.
3) It’s not about the profits. The one thing I am learning is to not make profit maximization the first priority in the design and development process, but rather aim to maximize the quality of the product and user experience instead. You really have to understand business and marketing concepts and put yourself in the shoes of all different consumers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a prototype of something I designed and absolutely hated it because the people putting it together don’t pay attention to the detail I outlined in the instructions for the development phase. Sometimes along the way you will have to micromanage to make sure products have the look and feel you seek. As a matter of fact, when the design process meets development I strongly urge you to micromanage, at least until the process is ironed out and everyone knows his or her role in the development of the product. Be sure to echo your expectations as well so they feel like they can’t let you down.
4) Get the big picture as well as the most infinitesimal details. If you can see deep into the future of a product, the lifecycle of its evolution and how it fits into the world then you’re going to have great success with it, not just in terms of sales but great experiences from the end user. Focus on the smaller particulars too because a bunch of small details make up the bigger one.
Do your absolute best to understand everything about the essence of a product if you really want to make it different, but simple, and most of all getting the quality nobody else can achieve.
Design is the fundamental heart beat of a product. It’s seen, felt and admired.
5) Clean and simple is the best approach. Analyzing the philosophy and the step-by-step thinking that goes into the design is hard, very hard. It takes a lot of work to make something so simple and to understand the challenges that lead to an elegant solution. The one thing people say about my finished products is that they’re clean, crisp and simple and that’s one of the first things I aim for aside from a unique nature.
Why do we assume that simple is good? Because we’re surrounded by many things in today’s world – most of which are quite complicated in design and nature. Bringing order to complexity makes the product defer to you. Simple isn’t just a visual style, or going over board with minimalism, or reducing clutter. You need to dig deep to be really simple and not lose focus of the vision and branding along the way.
6) Look, Feel and Association. Now, when dealing with people that come to you for design consulting you have to take the same approach each and every time and that’s to make a product that enhances their identity. Why do people buy nice cars and clothes? Because of the added value and association it gives to their individual identity. The same goes with a website, app or any other digital product. I can’t tell you how many times I see companies with horrible looking and functioning websites. Upper management should be ashamed for the lack of care in putting out a below average product. What they’re doing is cheapening their company and employee identity. Every good product should aim at the bigger picture of boosting morale with an elegant, personal feel to the design and branding.
You want something that you won’t feel embarrassed to show a million people.
I encourage you to start taking notice to different design features in the world around you – houses, furniture, cars and electronics – not just the product as a whole but zoom in on the detail, color, patterns and other things you would usually overlook and ask yourself, “what is so different about that?”
Once you get good at identifying those kinds of features then you start thinking about consumer behavior and the tangible and intangible feelings that go along with the emotional association of a product.
When it comes to a design phase of a project don’t get lost in the process. Someone needs to push and drive a design team through the resistance and make sure that idea does in fact become a reality. Be extremely anal and I promise you will have a great product you can look at and admire yourself.