Good Design Empowers Us to Interact with Ease and Confidence

December 2017

iStock/Gerber86

The word “designer” covers a broad swath of disciplines. While skilled in a variety of art-related techniques, at their core, designers possess natural ability to innovate. They are inspired to solve a problem following a path where ideation is core to the development process and implementation is the final step. The creative process can be a little messy and chaotic as projects often loop back through inspiration, ideation and implementation, allowing collaborators to refine ideas and explore alternative directions, but this workflow must be encouraged to promote the best design solutions.

Imagine it’s quitting time … Friday evening—a time to change your focus from your work responsibilities to preparing a leisurely meal, watching a movie, reading for pleasure, a workout, or any number of things that help you unwind.

Hopping into your car (conceived by an industrial designer), you head from the workplace to home, navigating with the assistance of wayfinding design, a form of environmental graphics—the signage and information systems guiding both pedestrians and motorists.

Once home, you retrieve your snail mail, which may include direct mail marketing in the form of flyers touting such things as the benefits of seamless gutters for your house—all created by graphic designers. This direct mail advertising appears a tad cheesy, but alas, an impressively crafted Dean & DeLuca holiday catalog has also arrived in your mix of mail. (There’s logical thinking behind a graphic designer’s solution for either cheesy or impressively designed material. The first is intended to interrupt you with flashy, pithy messaging, and the second is to set a mood and pace that will whet your appetite for upscale foie gras and Beluga caviar.) The more sophisticated catalog likely employed a visual designer that conceived Dean & DeLuca’s holistic aesthetic—the overall look and feel of the brand, as well as establishing what the catalog, products and companion site would provide to the target audience. The endgame for both solutions is to encourage commerce.

Next, you swing open your cupboards and scan your collection of food to prepare that leisurely meal. Cans and boxes are emblazoned with brand logos, typography, photography and illustration all screaming, “Pick me!” Package designers have competed fiercely with their product rivals so that you’d choose their goods in favor of their competitors.

Your cupboards are somewhat bare and your stomach grumbles from hunger, so you turn to your mobile device of choice in search of a quick solution and enter an interactive designer’s domain. The online experience has paired designers to collaborate with developers. A user experience (UX) designer has ensured through analysis that the content you seek is easy and intuitive to use. UX designer’s tasks include usability testing, creating user flows, validating business ideas, creating prototypes, but not so much making it visually delightful. Drilling down further, an information architect has created a blueprint for the site to make sure it’s organized in an accessible way. You can now Crave. Click. Enjoy. from your local restaurants using such apps as UberEATS. While you wait for your food delivery, you check social media and, no doubt, view the work of multimedia artists and animators—those creators intent on dazzling you using video. (And today’s trend is for more sophisticated video, not the “I shot this on my iPhone” solutions.)

Successful companies have formally mainstreamed “design thinking” into their entire enterprise to foster innovation. Based on a portfolio of 16 publicly traded stocks from companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Herman-Miller, IBM and Intuit, which are considered to be “design-centric,” a 2015 Design Management Institute study shows a 211% return over the S&P 500. The work of designers is ubiquitous, and it typically goes unnoticed unless it fails, like Florida’s “butterfly” ballot for the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, which played a part in confusing voters. In addition to a design project’s intention and conveying the core of a brand’s personality, a creative must know the intended target audience and empathize with their needs to effectively satisfy end users and stakeholders. This will lead to confident and powerful engagement with the world in which we immerse ourselves.

—Maureen