As was recently explained by a dear friend of mine who is making his living in the field of graphic design, the basic essence of great design isn’t all about how something looks. That’s as far as it goes in the digital design industry though, I suppose in industries such as engineering and architecture as well. Now that I get to thinking about it properly, this perhaps applies to so many industries which are in some or other way related with the design process.
So what is the basic essence of great design?
If we were to sum it all up in just one word we’d have to go for ‘efficiency,’ but of course we’re going to go a little deeper than that because the aim of this particular post is indeed to ultimately represent the other side of the coin, so to say. I want to make the case for those instances in which we go beyond the basic essence of great design, which is indeed efficiency.
A deeper look at what design efficiency is all about
So when someone designs something, what is it exactly which they aim to achieve? A computer programmer who is designing a programme for example has a specific need in mind which they want to cater to, so they’re designing a solution which addresses a certain problem or challenge. The same can be said about a web designer for example and because of the manner in which these solutions are presented it can become very easy for the true essence of what design is all about to get lost.
I suppose the discussion does indeed come from a place where it’s least expected, i.e. the subject for whom the solution is being designed, particularly if that subject aims to deploy that solution to complete a particular primary function. If you own a business for example and you wish to have a website designed for you, it can get very easy for you to focus on what are otherwise very frivolous points identified, such as how your website looks – how ‘pretty’ it is.
What you should be focussing on rather would be how your site operates – how it functions in delivering its primary purpose, which is perhaps to facilitate the exchange of information between you and your client / prospective client.
Yes, visual appeal definitely matters, but I can guarantee you nobody is going to remember the details of how pretty your site looks, but if it doesn’t adhere to important design principles on the other hand they are definitely going to remember just how bad it looks and just how badly it functions.
Sometimes there does need to be a bit more of an emphasis put on the visual appeal though, such as how anniversary gift baskets for example aren’t really designed for ‘efficiency.’ In what way would something like that be efficient, other than its originally intended purpose to mark a special occasion?
Still though, it’s always about more than how something looks by way of its design, but a lot more about how it functions as well.