The Story Elevates Your Design

Asis Patel
May 16, 2016 · 6 min read

Always make sure you promote the story behind your design, make sure you get noticed for all your hard work. In the wake of the new Instagram brand identity released last week which received a mix response, I felt this was a fitting topic to discuss — dismissing designs at face value.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover — you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something, by its outward appearance alone”

Something I have noticed is how people seem to jump to conclusions when they see something new or even when a colleague see’s something new on another colleague’s screen. I find people can be quite dismissive of something new from face value, largely because the value isn’t immediately obvious or it’s reason for existence isn’t immediately clear.

I am currently working on a rebuild project for a sports website. I produced the 1st iteration for a series of news article cards (which I had been working for quite some time). My process saw me speak to users, gather insights into what they would like to see on a card, figuring out the best way to display information through wireframes, adjusting pixels on elements, experimenting with styles and experimenting with different card sizes. Once I was happy with an initial concept I turned to my colleague for his opinion to which he replied “Nice, they are just cards” and rightly so he wasn’t wrong. At face value they were just a cards.

News card design what do you think? — “Nice they are just cards”

As soon as I zoomed out of the art board and talked him through the journey I had been on, he was immediately engaged and started to appreciate the decisions I had made, understanding the reason behind why elements were laid out the way they were and why they existed.

Obviously sometimes talking through the WHOLE process can be quite long winded and people don’t have the time but sharing at least the key points from the journey adds context to why a design is done the way it is.

Last week when Instagram released their new brand identity the internet was immediately filled with negative critics (a lot of positive ones too but I want to focus on the negative in this article). People slating the logo as soon as they saw it! Here are few lovely comments from my own peers…

People around the web also took the the time to create some (funny) alternatives and make a parody out of the new logo.

A washing machine!? • A kid let loose with a gradient picker • COMIC SANS!

It’s all fine and well having a laugh or being dismissive, but when you actually take the time to read into the theory behind the new logo you start to appreciate (or at least I did) the clear thought process behind it, the gradient isn’t there for gradient sake (as the ^ gif shows), it actually has meaning. It could be argued that the theory is just marketing bluff but the point is, it is justified and there is a clear reasoning behind it being present on the design.

There is never a solution that pleases everyone and usually when there is a redesign released there will be group rooted to the past, immediately opposing the change and then there is the other half which is more receptive to change.

There has been a few iconic re-brands in the past 12 months, two major ones which spring to mind are Google and Uber. Both were welcomed with mixed critiques. Google was criticised, one of many negative critics said it looked ‘child-like’ quoted from a user of The Drum.

Within the first week the Uber logo was labeled as ‘confusing’ by Techspot and apparently looking like an ‘Asshole’ by Gizmodo. Examples of the negative criticism which lead to the Head of design Andrew Crow, leaving the company (which is probably just a coincidence dare I say).

But when digging deeper in both instances there is a clear reasoning behind the design rationale, regardless if the user is a fan or not.

Google — the three main elements justified
Uber — Adaptable patterns inspired by the city where it is based, in this case India

Even I have prejudged in the past. I think the reason for this is when a design is simplified it’s easy to assume less work or less thought has gone into it. Two examples of this are, Gap’s rebrand which only lasted a week. Another being BBC 3 who rebranded at the start of the year. The negative reaction from users was so good even BBC wrote an article showcasing the best reactions.

In my opinion good design is when it can be justified and adds value. In these two cases these are where the criticism outweighs the value of the design. Not to add they seem like a step backwards from what already existed. (no offence to be taken by my comments).

Instagram’s brand has become simpler, hence the hate, but they’ve told an amazing story which justifies their work.

Old Gap vs New Gap
Old BBC 3 vs New BBC 3

I would like to conclude with 2 key lessons to be taken from this:

  1. Don’t be so quick to judge someone’s work until you understand the reason behind it. it’s the whole thing of not judging a book by it’s cover, dig deeper to see what’s inside the book before making judgement.
  2. When sharing your work with others be sure to sell why it exists. If we are going off the above analogy, the person you are presenting to can already see the book cover it’s your job to share the best bits from inside the book.

This is my first article on Medium, I hope you found it useful. I am new to writing online so any feedback you can offer I will be hugely grateful for, good or bad — no need to hold back I can take it!

Follow me @Asis_Patel

Asis Patel

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Product Designer from England living in Canada. Curious why people do things the way they do and how I can help better that experience. Lives @