Truth and Magic

Guidelines for the future of digital product design

David Conrad
Jul 29, 2014 · 3 min read

We have this big sign hanging in our conference room at Design Commission proclaiming “Truth and Magic” and it’s become a bit of a mantra for us as we’re designing digital products for our clients. In order to explain the sign, it’s important to understand what’s happening in the world of technology and design.

The number of digital product experiences in our every-day lives is proliferating at a staggering rate. Nielsen recently reported that adults spend eleven hours a day with electronics, which points to a vast amount of exposure to digital product design. With that exposure, consumers have become pretty good at recognizing well-designed experiences and favoring them. Products that are well designed get used more. But, well-designed products are hard to create.

Truth

By truth I’m referring to that quality in a product that makes it intuitive. A truthful product is one that works as expected without excessive explanation. It’s a product that is usable and doesn’t frustrate. Truth in design is craft in its purest form. It’s pure intention given over to those who experience it, and it’s table-stakes. We don’t use products we don’t understand, so truth is always the first ingredient.

Magic

The best, most memorable products and experiences have an aspect of mysterious wonder to them. Designers need to make interfaces that are wonderful and exciting in unexpected ways. These experiences should hide away complexity, revealing it only at the exact right moment — teasing the user into more inquiry.

End Note:

I first heard the phrase “Truth and Magic” in Mark Maron’s incredible interview with Dave Grohl. If you don’t already listen to WTF you should be. Go. Subscribe now. Go ahead.

David Conrad

Written by

Seattle Dad, Designer, Design Commission Studio Director, Creative Mornings organizer, start-up advisor and pen addict.