Is Effectiveness the Right Way to Judge Design?

Treatise #3

When a designer is hired, the designer’s role always begins with a specific need that must be fulfilled. The end product created by the designer should fulfill this role, thus creating an effective design. To many, this relationship is everything in design. Many judge design effectiveness as the sole criteria of consideration.

As designers are often hired by businesses, the commercial viability or commerciality of a design can becomes the above all factor in the effectiveness of a design. This is obviously an important one, but effectiveness cannot be everything in the way design is viewed.

Considering solely effectiveness as the primary criteria for judging design is a significant limitation on understanding what design can be.

Design, more than just fulfilling a role, also provokes emotions and an emotional response from the audience/ viewer. Above this, it is clear design also moves through many styles that change in time, and most design (especially graphic and fashion) becomes more and more dated with time. The very fact that design is the interface through which individuals will interact with something on a day to day basis is important and its effect on the end user must be considered carefully. Considering that, we can also consider how much time a user will spend interacting with that interface (i.e. a leaflet verus a computer program). And the specific emotional response and the depth of that emotional response is also something that should be considered. There is also a level of artistic and/or creative merit to the work — for example how innovative or trendy, or something else is a design.

Another vital factor that is not considered enough today in how we view design is the conversation design is creating. We also need to be consider more carefully the conversation that happens back and forth between people and the designed environment around them.

Some may consider all of these factors to be sub-factors in terms of effectiveness. However, I believe we must treat them as independent factors. There is a wide range of space within each of these factors that can create an effective design even in a single case. Thus, to only consider effectiveness above all is to miss the depth and diversity of what design can be.