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good design

What constitutes good design? For me, there are two parameters that stick out:

1. Do you know what building is pictured above? Even if you don't know exactly which building it is, can you guess what people do in it? It's a library- the Seattle public library. I got to visit this library during the fall and was completely enamored with the design. It is edgy and sunny and totally different than any other library I have ever been in (and trust me, I have been in my fair share.) This is good design because it is surprising but still relevant. You do not expect a library to look or feel like this one does, but once you get inside you realize that it works really well. Think of this as novelty with purpose.

2. Alright, do you know what this thing is? (This should be a little easier...) It's a car- a playsam toy car. Really, though, it's just a block of shiny, painted wood that rolls. This is super-successful design because it is soooo simple. Really excellent design gives the end user exactly what they need, and sometimes a little less. It is OK to leave the consumer wanting more. I believe I have heard that when you have a design you are happy with, you should simplify it a few more times, and then simplify again. Boil it down to its essence, and then it becomes beautiful.


  1. Your second point reminds me of a conversation I had with the architect Christopher Deam. He thought it was important to leave designs "incomplete" in some way so that the user can fill that gap with their own content. It can be pretty hard to imagine how this fits neatly into all products, but it's similar to your point about giving someone a little less than they're expecting (just don't tell that to a marketing person, they won't understand what you mean)


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