How Design Applies to Me
Disclaimer: I wrote this article six months ago on my personal blog, which is now my Tumblr, my hub for all of my work, so I decided I would post it as-was, here on Medium.
I have no formal background in the field of design. I’ve taken one design class while in college, but it was a requirement and focused on basic design principles. Somehow though, I’ve managed to receive two separate jobs on behalf of my design knowledge; one of them being most significant jobs I’ve ever had; my current position as writer (now review editor) atThe Industry. So, how have I managed to work with and talk about design so much without ever studying it in depth or any sort of formal training?
Yesterday, I saw a wonderful quote that gave me some insight into this. It’s from an interview with Keenan Cummings on The Industry.
There are three types of designers in this world: Those who do design, those who do good design, and those who get design. The first two are pretty common, but it’s rare you’ll come across someone who really understands what design is all about.
As soon as I read those words, it hit me as to where I fell into the lines as a designer. And while my following statement sounds arrogant as I say it to myself, I don’t mean it in such a manner at all.
I get design.
I have never sought after design knowledge. I feel that those who get design are born with it. It’s innate. You can learn to make design, but I don’t believe you can get design by learning. I do believe though, if you make good design, you must truly understand people and the motives behind their actions and interactions. Design is more than shapes in a program or the UI of your favorite application, as I elaborated on in my Vivir post on The Industry.
Design is human. Design is what connects individuals with the items they interact with on a daily basis. Design is more about psychology than anything else. In fact, I feel as though psychology is the driving force behind everything. While some may say aesthetics is what determines good design, there is a psychological reason behind what each individual considers aesthetically pleasing.
With psychology being so intertwined with design, I think it’s the reason I understand it so well and get design. I understand a decent amount of psychology. Psychology — albeit it being more vague than a specific field of psychology — explains how people interact with the objects they possess: be it a chair, an application, a phone, or even a glass bottle. And as with design, I have never gone about studying psychology except for my current gen-ed class; in fact I just received a 60% on my first psychology exam.
This leads me to believe such abilities aren’t necessarily learned. I’m not book smart by any means, but as I’m sure we can all agree, not possessing book smarts doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of why someone views something as good design or a piece of crap.
Most of the items you use and interactions you make, draw the connections by means of your subconscious. I believe only a small percentage is truly conscious in your decision making as to whether something is good design or not. In fact, it’s the sole reason that good design is transparent; it interacts on a subconscious level.
Out of the hundreds of millions of iPhones owned around the world, how many people do you see consistently talking about how well designed – beyond a few superficial regards to aesthetics – they are? Odds are, not too many. While I would consider this a very superficial way of putting it, it’s how a vast majority of individuals would reply; it’s the beauty of it, though.
Actually, this why I admire Steve Jobs as much as I do. He wasn’t a designer by studying it. He was a designer (and marketer) because he knew people — ergo he knew what they wanted in a product. There’s a reason so many people spoke of his ability to “distort reality.” In fact, even the FBI took note of it. He was as much as a psychologist as he was a computer geek. I don’t even think he realized that himself, though.
To sum it up
To answer the question I brought up at the beginning of this article, I believe I am in the position(s) I am today due to the fact I get design; not the fact I can necessarily do design. While there is a bit of overlapping and this may all seem like semantics, I truly believe it’s what has brought me to where I currently am.
I have much to learn and much to strive for, though. Each day is a new lesson along the journey we all call life.