Design, art and usabilityDec 19, 2008
I have B.A in Law. There's no academic design education in my CV. It's defintiely a missing piece and there is nothing to boast about. I love design. I'm a graphic designer after all. I should get a wider view on the subject. Read and discuss with the alike. I should go and study it.Though, I've still learnt a lot already. By practicing it daily for ten years. By doing, reading, thinking and loving it. And also by hearing everyone's ideas about it.
Design is all around usDesign is an eternal discussion topic for a lot of people. Much like weather. Because it's everywhere. You can always talk about weather if conversation has run out and you don't know where to hide your eyes. Or like politics. In a way, it holds also true for design. There's fashion, there are advertisements, there's the interior and of course product design. They fill our space all day round.
And then there's that design that even bears the name "Design". You don't speak of it as much as fashion and advertisements. But sometimes one still does. Because most of us have to "consume" some design services during their existence. Not to mention that we design stuff ourselves every day. Unaware of doing it though. We write documents and make the text look nice. We add pictures and want them to fit in. And the services we order. We get our websites created by some guys. We order those nice white business cards. We just need logos for our ventures. We even let stuff to be desinged for our weddings. And funerals too, in a way.
Common (mis)conception of designAs said, design is everywhere. It's mostly subtle and unnoticable though. If one thinks of the word "design", a colorful array of artish imagery conquers his mind. "Art," he thinks. "Bloody artists and their useless crap," his mind nods in agreement.
Design is considered to be art. Just "useless art". An unnecessary commodity, luxury. A thing in itself. Something without purpose. Therefore, design is often seen as an expense article begging to be cut in web development budgets. One can only afford solid stuff, not fairy-tales.
Design as usabilityTruth is actually opposite to that conception. We can't avoid design by cutting budgets and calling it no-purpose art. We can only choose between good vs bad design. We can only cut usability.
A great designer is actually a great engineer. He is able to fit complex technology or concepts into simple and easily understandable form. Great ad designer is a short-sayer. Great fashion designer is a short-cutter. Great product desinger is a Scandinavian.
When designing, aesthetics play the secondary role. Function, usability, purpose play the first one. It's not that aesthetics aren't important. Of course they are—all in all that's what finally makes the distinction, memorability and pays the bills. It's just that impressive aesthetics simply come along with impressive usability.
A product without design is artThere's no brain behind a lot of software or web development decisions. Developing a program with extensive functionality but cutting out the design is as stupid as building a house without doors and windows.
Still that's how most of the can openers are constructed and software developed today. As if the developers themselves will be the only ones to use their products. Designing brings usability and purpose into products. Design makes the product. Leaving out design removes the purpose.
Therefore, the meaning of design is exactly the opposite of the common misconception discussed above. Desing is reason. A product without design and usability is art—it only makes sense for the creator, is unusable and brings no income.
So next time you are going to create anything to be used by someone else than you, get it designed. Think out the simple and usable form to present the function. Otherwise you should cut your ears off like a truely good artist would do.
PS. I really do love great art.