In which the author gripes about design

Design doesn’t equal drawing.

One major reason some people shrink back from design thinking is the misconception that you have to be able to draw/paint/illustrate in order to be creative. NO!!! A visual-centric design system can actually cause problems – you have the visual designers of the world driving to solutions in a variety of contexts. Have you ever seen a beautifully designed, incredibly uncomfortable chair? Have you ever bought a gorgeous but uncomfortable pair of shoes? And I bet you’ve bought a beautiful but impossible-to-use app on your phone.

(I could make the argument that women’s high heeled shoes are direct evidence of the inclination to advance form over function.)

Let’s think of some other examples of where form may be getting in the way of function. You may note that these examples are all newer technologies/interfaces. That’s because bad form evolves into good form for the vast majority of technology, over time. Because if it doesn’t, it doesn’t survive. Except for high heeled shoes. And spelling. Books work pretty well.

  • Apple TV remote. This almost frictionless, tiny object is easy to lose, hard to navigate, and is only fully functional with accessories and/or some sort of gripping cover to allow you to not drop it constantly. (The converse example of function over form – every other remote control device in current operation – proves that function over form is also not the ideal approach.)
  • Tesla car dashboard. It is featureless, except for the beautiful touch screen interface, which you have to look at closely to interact with. You can’t look at a screen and the road at the same time. This beautiful interface doesn’t work as well as tactile buttons and knobs that can be operated with muscle memory, and without taking your eyes off the road.
  • Instagram. This app does one thing. Except that it doesn’t. Next time you use it, count the number of clickable elements on the screen. Double digits. But it’s pretty.

There are more examples out there. But, let’s talk about design principles in the next post, and my thoughts on how to balance form and function for best outcomes.