tl;dr Beautiful design is not pretty design. Clients can sabotage their own designs, so be careful. Don’t be that guy! Join me in refusing to make designs that force a bad experience on a viewer–by making great work!
You know it when you hear it in a song. The song that compels you to sing with it’s melody, cry or laugh with it’s lyrics and feel like it is expressing everything you wanted to that you couldn’t on your own.
You know it when you watch it on your favorite new show. When the writers suck you in with wit and the actors make you feel what they feel.
You know it when you walk into a home that feels like home. You know it when you smell food that will make your tastebuds sing.
You already know good art in your bones, no matter which sense it tickles.
If we all know good when we see it, why is it so hard to find it in design?
It’s not as subjective as you may think. As with music, writing, and baking, design has rules. They can be broken, of course, but those who break them best know them best. And those who break them poorly are found everywhere.
It may all boil down to a measure of exposure. It’s easy to avoid a plate of burned food. And fairly easy to turn the station from music or shows we know are poorly produced. But it’s impossible to get away from bad design.
When you sit at a restaurant and you are handed a menu and you can’t find the name of the meal you want, or the price. You can’t reject the menu and tell them to bring you a better version. Billboards, banner ads and the ever hated pop-up screen telling you to BUY NOW are obnoxious and as quickly as you can pass them by, they are unavoidable.
So if it seems that good design is hard to find, it may be that society hasn’t yet found a way to shut up the bad design as easily as we shut out the bad music or cooking.
On the flip side, I’ve never met a designer whose sole goal was to make ugly banners with starbursts.
Where is the breakdown between designers desperate to do good work and the amount of vile designs we all see daily?
The truth is that intent does not make the design work. And while I don’t meet designers who set out to do poor designs, I have met more than one client who said, “just make it crappy.” One in particular who wanted me to make a picture so horrible that no one would click on the product.
However much we might want the world to be filled with beauty in both form and function, reality forever conspires with deadlines and miscommunications. Over time, designers lose their zeal to create perfect, because the client cannot afford it or flat out doesn’t want it.
What’s the secret?
As I designer, I’m constantly reminding myself that clients have reasons for what they want, even if it is appalling for the designer. That skills in photoshop/web design/photography grow with experience. That we all have to start somewhere.
As a consumer of design (a.k.a. a human being bombarded by marketing), I accept none of these excuses. I want every designer to know that when they execute unbalanced, overly glamorous, non-functional, unnecessary designs–even at the behest of the client–that they have forced me to experience all of that shit. I refuse to be one of them.
Do you agree? Cool. Let’s get coffee and make something together.