Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
-Dieter Rams, Ten Principles for Good Design
With good reason, Dieter Rams is considered one of the best modern product designers. His ten principles for good design are constantly quoted and looked to by designers, architects, writers and media creators. Steve Jobs looked to his products for inspiration and followed his modern and effectual designs to create the extremely functional products for Apple after his return to the company in 1998. Both of these pioneers have seen their design efforts inspiring many people to strive to create better and explore beyond the limits of process controlled design environments.
Both Rams and Jobs both looked at a product and brought out of it the best answers to questions or problems that their products are going to solve, while still remaining innovative and focused. Looking at each product and pushing boundaries of both ability and design, they broke through many molds and reshaped product design forever. Striving to create something involves a large process and the creative process is not so delicate unlike somewhat opinionated views of good design versus bad design. Design’s ever evolving methods could be a full-time job keeping up with how different people arrive at a solution. Much like America was before massive cities and forever stretching highways, a solution will always have many means to an end and how you get there is up to it’s creator.
In the years that I’ve been building websites, only in the last seven of those years have I had a process that one could consider anything remotely consistent, process wise. It wasn’t until I began to build websites for other people beyond my own personal projects, that I began to understand that there were wrong and right ways to do things. The creative process I personally follow has changed many times for many reasons, but I have never sat down to really go through my creative process itself and analyze it. I’ve worked a lot on my client process fairly consistently. After all, if you scare off clients (which I have been fortunate to not have done yet), you don’t eat. But like many people, when something wasn’t working, I will investigate why and fix it. I attempt to approach a problem from one angle instead of the previous one, present something to a client in a less harsh environment, learn how to code better and quicker, or I’d go to a place for particular inspiration because I felt the previous haunts weren’t working any longer.
The mythology of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t a terrible way to go about things; we shouldn’t fix things for the sake of fixing them. If you can’t observe how you do something and explain why you do it that way and why a particular step is a hack not a short cut, then perhaps it’s time to take quarter of your creative process and indulge yourself a little bit to trim a little fat or improve. In the least, you could come out on the other side more confident in your abilities and boost your ability to successfully accomplish your goals.
About a month ago, at the end of a purposeful break from work, I decided I wanted to get into my creative process specifically. I wanted to dig a little bit and see what I could find. On my last break, I completely changed how I work with my clients after a look into why I didn’t like how things were going. With this introspective look into how I dealt with clients, approached their concerns, responded to their emails / phone calls, and even how I sent files to them, it gave way to a better experience for my clients and myself. Therefore with my latest look into the design / development side of things, I felt this would be a fantastic time to see if I could find the same results I had seen with my freelance client retrospective.
Better, Thorough Design
As a Designer, I want to be able to create something that not just is a result of several hours of work that only gets by. I want my design to be liked and loved, but foremost a design that is understood, useful, thorough and honest. I want it to stand the test of time. Again, this might sound familiar if you know about Rams’ 10 Principles. I don’t want to follow his principles just because he has design some incredible products, I want to follow them in order to produce the best product I can for my clients. This is more than just getting better at what I do. We’ve moved beyond the point of the adolescent days of the internet where building a website that “just gives a presence,” and come into a place where the more adult-like attitude to building a presence that accurately advertises a business, a highway tear-out, selling a product, or telling a story.
The hardest part of this was to look at my process with the mantra of “good design is as little design as possible.” I wanted to look at how I deal with my client process and design with this in mind. It’s not a matter of making something “modern” or “simplistic,” but building something that lacks fluff and works right in any instance it might be used. When we think about the quality of something, good is GOOD and bad is BAD. We shouldn’t confuse this with “good, better, best, average, okay, not too bad, almost there.” It is either good or bad. To use another positive and negative; it either works or doesn’t.
Things can and will be built by any designer that are trendy, and they can be at either end of a design trend (beginning, middle, end). The key to what we build is answering that need by the client and building something that lasts. Sometimes trends enter that discussion and sometimes we make the trend. Something that is well designed shouldn’t be built with the notion that it will be redesigned a few years later, although there are times we do build things this way in an iterative sort of way. Given these notions, it shouldn’t mean that we should dedicate less time/energy/function into the currently made product with that thought in mind. Rebranding happens with businesses and stories change, but when we interact with a product upon shipping (completion) we shouldn’t be looking at it and observing it’s future. It should be the future.