Great design is like an angel carved out of wood…

Great design takes time, lots of time. Its like an angel carved out of wood, too may chips have to go away, too many incomplete models and designs. Chip by chip until the best design emerges. Sure, there is no perfect design, great design can only approach perfection tangentially. Design is form of communication. I’ve never met an artist who fully communicated. I’ve never seen a piece of art that was fully perfected.

No matter how magnificent the design is, if it doesn’t communicate properly, it has lost its essence. Hence, its not a great design.

A great design must not only be cool, it must be simple, intuitive and profitable to all stakeholders.

Good design aims to hide itself from the user while exposing them to an awesome and memorable experience. Here is where great design differs from good design — good design gets the job done, great design goes a step further to expose the user to an awesome experience. Great design is like a magnificent angel carved out of wood, you don’t see the cuts, the carvings, nothing, you don’t even see the wood itself, all you get to see is the angel!

This is what I mean, if the design of the airplane is great, the passengers inside will hardly notice that it is moving, that the engines are running, the noise, the wind, the electricity, the seats, everything! Great design is hardly noticeable, it hides everything but the experience. The great car drives so smoothly, that you forget it is moving, you just keep riding. The great app is built so well, that the users forget that they are using it, they just keep making orders. The song is so great you hardly notice the beats or the wordings, just lost in the emotional experience it communicates.

A great design is hardly noticed until it fails or there is a competitor. Until then, the artist stays underrated. While making a phone call, the only thing exposed to you is the person on the other end of the phone and the content of the discussion. You don’t notice the call network or the phone until you start having issues with connectivity.

Good design is usable, Great design is addictive.

At this point, I can make a bold attempt to define great design as the art of solving a problem, in a way no one sees it. That definition may not be very accurate but it gives you the picture.

The human mind quickly habituates things, if not it would be very difficult to live through the day. Habituation is a way the human mind forgets and overlooks tiny details so that we can focus on the most important details.

Remember the first time you drove a car or bicycle? You got distracted by so many things because your mind is taking note of everything — the number of pedals you are kicking, the correct arrangement, the gear, the words of the person teaching you to drive, all the trees, the pedestrians, the sign posts, traffic lights, oncoming vehicles, everything! At that point, you wont even be able to listen to music because of too many details!

Its mind boggling and very stressful. But as the weeks go by, your brain starts overlooking all those unnecessary details because it already know how they work or behave. You’ll find yourself focusing only on the most important things — the destination, the pedestrian likely to run across the road and the oncoming vehicle. At that state of mind, you can play music and talk with people in the car.

This human nature is what great design takes into consideration, it aligns itself so closely to the user’s everyday experience so that the user can concentrate on the most important things — checking out the shopping cart, hitting the subscribe button, signing up, booking a taxi, ordering a pizza etc.

Some people often conflict beautiful design with great design, sometimes beautiful design can come in the way of great design. Sometimes the user can be lost in the beauty of the product that they forget to hit the call to action button! The homepage page image slides, the autoplay video, the button effects etc, if care is not taken the user could get distracted. For many websites, a plain white page with 2 lines of text and a simple call to action button can make more sales than all the fancy designs.

Guess what Steve Jobs said about beautiful design and great design?

Good design is learnable, Great design is genius. It takes time, lots of time and comes from experience. I do hope that you are able to move your product from good to great. Thank you!

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