I take most things in life for granted. Turn the key, the car starts. Hit the “popcorn” button… done. Want a song? Download it. Need any – any – information? Fingertips. Things have gotten “easy,” in a sense, because of how they are designed.

We only notice the things that are broken.

There are a million things that go into good design that no one will ever see.

If something is designed well:

  • it cannot advertise all the problems it solved.
  • it cannot advertise the process needed to get to where it is.
  • it cannot advertise all the design of other things needed to create the design of this thing.
  • it cannot advertise waste, failure, and experimentation.

Good design can only be itself, a reflection of its creator, and a service to its user. Good design cannot say how good it is (this would kill its intended purpose). It must remain content at simply being good.

Good design fundamentally requires humility.

This is a pill many people are still not willing to swallow. Look at the billboards around you. Look at some popular websites. Look at the cable box remote. These are often not humble designs. Therefore, their effectiveness wanes. The business goal is missed. And there’s more clutter and less beauty in the world.

“Good design is as little design as possible,” says German designer Dieter Rams. Good design gets out of the way and just feels inevitable and leaves us wondering, “How can this be anything other than how it is?”


P.S. The ideas in this post are inspired by the documentary Objectified, “a feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them” (IMDB). Below is a clip of Apple’s Senior Vice President, Jonny Ive. It is formative and normative for the work we aspire to do at Blue Ocean Ideas. Check it out!

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