Our society has come a long way since the sixties; technology has evolved from an age of revolution, to a time of rapid evolution. Our definitions of culture, society, and technology have evolved since then, along with our aesthetic tastes, you’d be hard pressed to find a house still decorated in floral wallpaper and shag carpet, or so I hope.
So what can be defined as ‘timeless’ in a world that is constantly changing?
Many would argue that art is timeless, whereas true design cannot be as it must change and evolve to remedy the problem being met. But what about the Shell Oil logo that was designed in 1904 or Le Corbusier furniture which is still considered the epitome of great design? We could point to countless famous works in architecture, industrial design and graphic design that show us that they are equally effective now, as they were when they were created. But how do we qualify great design in a world of technology? If technology is constantly changing, there must be another scale other then timelessness to measure good design. With this rapidly changing landscape, what makes truly great design for a website, program or app?
If technology is constantly changing, there must be another scale other then timelessness to measure good design.
Dieter Ram was an industrial designer, famous for making Braun a household name in the 1950’s, and he was the chief design officer from 1961 – 1995. In the 1980’s, he became aggravated with world around him and all the visual clutter being thrown at people – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” As with most designers he challenged himself and wondered if his design was good or contributing to the visual noise. He then set out to define the 10 most important principals for what he considered was good design. Designers today sometimes refer to these as the ‘ten commandments’.
Over the next 9 weeks, we will explore one of Dieter’s principles each week and observe how we can measure what defines good digital design based on these principles:
1) Good Design is Innovative
Even in the 80’s, innovation was a buzzword that adorned what was “cool” and relevant. Our world is constantly evolving, there are new technologies and innovations coming left right and center. With this onslaught of new technologies come huge opportunities for innovative design. To be truly innovative, strategy and visual aesthetic must work together in tandem to create an entirely new user experience that either reinvents the way users interact with your site/program, or improves upon it.
To be truly innovative, strategy and visual aesthetic must work together in tandem to create an entirely new user experience that either reinvents the way users interact with your site/program, or improves upon it.
Companies like Google are built on the spirit of innovation. Susan Wojcicki, Google’s Senior Vice President of Advertising states, “In our fast-evolving market, it’s hard for people to know, or even imagine, what they want. That’s why we recruit people who believe the impossible can become a reality.” The importance of imagination and being able to of being able to “blue-sky think” are the characteristics needed to spark some of the most innovative ideas.
Of course, these intuitive ideas needs to be “fueled by insights” for such ideas to take flight. As with all inventions these ideas need to be user tested. If the data backs up the design, whether it be more sales on an e-commerce platform or more clicks on an online banner, you can check your first box off Ram’s principles.
In short, innovation is as relevant today as it was in Dieter’s Braun workshop in the 80’s. Innovation will continue to define good design because innovation is truly timeless.
Stay tuned for the second principle: good design is honest.