What is your design philosophy? — I was asked this question by a candidate during a recent job interview. Oddly, it was the first time I’d ever been asked that question. As I fumbled through an answer I realized I didn’t really have an articulated design philosophy, or at least not one that easily came to mind. So I decided remedy that.
1: There is art in design, but design is not art
There is a practiced art to creating great design, but the final output of the design process is not art. Art is creative expression intended to provoke questions and individual interpretation. Art is inspiring, emotional and important, but does not fill a specific need beyond humanities’ desire to express itself. Design, on the other hand, is a creative process intended to solve a problem, to fill a need for the people that will ultimately interact with it. Design should not be open to interpretation, but instead should define how it is to be engaged with and should guide a user at each stage of that engagement. Art creates questions, design creates answers.
2: Design must be rooted in reality
As Dieter Rams says, “Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design”. Empathy is the conduit to great design and the critical skill for great designers. Without a deep understanding of the end user and the reality in which a design will be used, any decision a designer makes is a shot in the dark. To fill a real need, design must be rooted in reality.
3: Design is never perfect
Design is about creating elegant solutions to address user needs. The tricky thing is that most often we are designing for humans, and humans are complicated. People’s expectations and desires evolve over time. Sometimes design evolves to meet these changes, sometimes design is the driver of the change. Regardless, a designer’s work is never done. This does not mean that design needs to be trendy, design can be timeless, but a great designer has a bent toward iteration and always has their ear to the ground.
4: Design is a set of tools, not a standardized process
Every problem presents its own unique set of characteristics, as such there is no one-size-fits-all process for coming…