Design is vast. There are hundreds of pretentious definitions, and many subdivisions and disciplines across industries big and small, each with their own semantics, methodologies, and beliefs.
The growth of the software industry in particular has led to many lines being blurred — new disciplines being created, old ones being merged, and general confusion on what exactly designers do. Industrial designers, graphic designers, and architects are attracted to the software industry’s increasing importance as other fields have become over-saturated, highly commoditized, or out of touch with the general public.
While we may come from different backgrounds, designersacross disciplines use a similar high-level methodology.
When design is defined as a methodology for solving problems, it’s logical to compare the design process to another familiar process: The scientific method.
This, however, fails to account for the most fun and inspiring moments in design — the creative sparks and unanticipated outcomes of the process:
“Happy accidents” while working through problems, or flashes of inspiration in the shower that lead to those inessential moments of delight that make using well-designed products intangibly more enjoyable.
People love products for irrational reasons, despite obvious inferiority from an empirical or functional standpoint. For example, emotion is the reason people continue to buy Beats headphones despite objectively “better” competitors.
The creative components of design, in turn, lead to the worstthings —
not about design in particular — about creative work in general:
Inaccurate time estimations because something that worked before doesn’t work this time, inconsistent results when there isn’t a flash of inspiration at a crucial moment, and unexpected difficulties doing something that was initially thought to be easy.
Everyone has a favorite color, and more frequently a least favorite color. The spontaneous and emotional aspects of design are hard — if not impossible — to rationalize. In many cases, the most sophisticated data analysis can’t tell you why someone loves your product the same way we can say why an app might be more performant.
All of this is because there are no absolutes in design.
There is definitely good design — beautiful, elegant, and functional. There is also bad design — ugly, complex, or unusable. And — unfortunately — there is “I wish you could make it pop,” which is what people say when they can’t tell the difference.