What is Good Design?

by | Aug 8, 2016 | Design

What is Good Design?

Bill Hanson

Bill Hanson

President & Chief Designer

Is design, like beauty, truly in the eye of the beholder or is there something more to it?

When you are looking at a website, tv commercial or any printed media, do you look at the layout and the colors and wonder to yourself “Why did they do that?” Do we ever consciously look at something and think about the design? I would venture to say the we almost never do that, unless we are a designer or design critic. In my day to day interaction with the printed and digital world around me I often think about design and the function of the piece I am looking at. Do the colors look pleasing together? Is the imagery correct? Does the balance of the piece work? There are so many other question that float through my head when I look at other’s design.

“This is the nonnegotiable. Whatever it is, and whatever other great qualities it has, it can’t be well designed if it doesn’t do something useful. Even better is if that something couldn’t have been done before.”
~ ALICE RAWSTHORN,The International Herald Tribune

When I sit down to begin building a piece for a client I try to start with the goal and work my way backwards from there, sort of reverse engineering the piece. Hopefully by the time the client and I have come to the end of the project the finished work is functional and memorable. Sometimes memorable is not pretty and that may be the point of it. Direct mail for example generally has a rule that ugly gets looked at and looked at is what you want first when it is mixed in with a stack of who knows what. It has to stand out. Business cards need to communicate with more than just words. They have the added opportunity to convey something about you or your company with tactile message. If I sold wine would I want my card to feel all slick and glossy, when what I am selling is smooth and velvety. A website offer the user a chance to experience your company in other ways too. The movement, the focal depth, and the ease of access to the information. What is the most important in this case? I would say it is the ease access to information, after all if you can’t find what you are looking for, why bother going back? Who goes to a grocery store where always have to ask where they put this or that? Hot dog buns, bagels and bread should be located together, right? Sometimes a website can be designed in a way that is misleading and that is frustrating for users. You don’t go to the pet store to buy fresh vegetables.

I know that I have put out some stuff that I loved and yet it never had that effect on the client. Is that bad design? You bet! In the end, if it doesn’t achieve it’s goal and the client doesn’t like it, you missed the target.

In my opinion, good design starts with the function and communication of the important information. The rest is subject to the viewer/users style and mood.

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