Wherever you are in whatever profession, I am sure you would have seen someone pointing to a product and saying “this design is good” or “this design is bad”. So what do we define as good design!! In this particular context, people would be mostly referring to the visual appeal or the visual detailing in a particular product.
Design is not just aesthetics, it is much more than what we see
To truly explain what is a good design, we first need to understand what is design and what do people mean by design.
If you search online, I am sure you will find thousands of explanations for good design and every designer has her/his own definition of design as well as for good design. Even though there are so many definitions, if a deeper thought is put in to understand those statements we will realise that most of the popular designers are trying to communicate the same message in different ways.
For me personally, creating experience through solving problems is design irrespective of the field or product. For creating any kind of experience one has to satisfy the various senses of the user. The senses which needs to be and can be satisfied at various instances are
- Visual or Sight (sense of seeing)
- Olfaction (sense of smell)
- Auditory (sense of hearing)
- Gustation (sense of taste)
- Somatosensation or Tactition (sense of Touch)
- Emotional – Emotion is usually not considered as a sense, but I personally term it as a very important sense which is influenced by other five senses. Emotions also have a component called expectation. When any of the other 5 senses are satisfied beyond expectation, the emotional sense is activated and the user feels the sensation of happiness and satisfaction.
Products/Services can be termed as good designs when they create and enhance the desired experience. So am I saying that anything we do which creates an experience is design. Certainly not. Design in some way is the well structured process of creating such enhanced experiences through problem solving.
Everything around us is designed, from products to services. A product small or big even though appears to be a single entity, when seen in an enlarged view, it is always part of an ecosystem. For example, a bigger product like aircraft when used by airlines which is a service becomes the core product of the ecosystem . A small product like pen, being used in the office of the same airline becomes an associated product in a smaller ecosystem confined to the office or certain tasks. Apart from aircraft there are several other products associated and necessary for the aviation industry which are being used by the airlines.
So while designing a product one needs to understand the services, the context in which the products are going to be used, the people who would be using those products. Similarly while designing a service one needs to understand in depth, how the different products which will be part of a system are going to be used by the users. And how the products in the system will interact with each other in both the cases.
When these above mentioned ingredients are considered and cooked to satisfy the tastes of the users, it results in a delicious product. Little less salt will make the product bland and more would spoil the taste. When this balance is achieved, the design can be termed as a good design.
In a broader sense there are two schools of deign philosophy which designer knowingly or sub-consciously follow
- one in which, it is believed that the form follows function
- the other in which aesthetics is the most important aspect of design
The ultimate aim of both the schools of design would be to create an enticing experience along with solving problems. Many times designers fail to understand the form in itself is a function. Form plays a very important function of solving our visual and emotional needs and problems.
One might ask, what experience does products like medical equipments create apart from solving the problem of treating the patient. Let me consider an example of a surgical table. It is a very essential equipment required for conducting surgeries. There would be two prime end users for this product: patient & the doctor/surgical staff. The main function of the table would be to provide a platform for the patient to lay flat for the doctor to conduct the required procedure. The ease with which the doctor/surgical staff can operate this table and associated equipments is an experience created by the table which keeps their mind calm and helps them concentrate on the task of operating the patient. The patient being operated and who is already tensed about the surgery should also feel comfortable and relaxed to lay down on this table for getting operated. This is also a form of creating experience.
Good designs are those which create experiences by solving relevant problems.