Photo by The White House

The Biggest Problem in Design

Listen up. You probably think you’re pretty talented, and that you’re using your formidable design skills on important, meaningful problems.

Well, you’re wrong.

The situation in design today is dire. Like, darkness-over-the-land-and-plague-through-the-city dire. What we need is a savior in thick-rimmed glasses and snug-fitting denim to set things right.

You know what I mean. One quick glance at your phone and BAM—it’s like a brass knuckle to the face. Like some zombie apocalypse horror movie right before your eyes.

Those icons, all 24 of them, looking like jewels. I mean, with gradients and gloss and shit. It’s like Charlie Sheen up in here, and that’s enough to make you want to throw up a little in your mouth.

I mean, forget the fact that the phone is a tool designed to help you connect with others, save time or solve problems. That’s just some trivial nonsense. The real problem is how phony those textures look. Linen? More like lame-nen. And that faux leather and stitching? Flash that in front of babies and I guarantee it’ll make them cry.

What the design world needs is a big-ass gun that’ll vaporize this skeuomorphic bullshit in the blink of an eye. Imagine yourself standing there with that smoking barrel, your houndstooth skinny tie flailing in the wind, the world suddenly purer (and flatter).

Alas, a hero’s work doesn’t end there. There’s no time to crack open a bottle of PBR and kick back on an Eames chair. There are waves upon waves of other critical design problems piling at your door. Like designing a proper weather app. Because think about it, how seriously awful are those realistically-rendered clouds? You can’t even tell what the barometric pressure is, for chrissake! And don’t even get me started about how the city is presented. People need sick visuals, dammit! They need some hi-res dope photos! Just relying on typographic hierarchy to tell you which city’s weather you’re looking at is obviously unacceptable. If you don’t agree, you might as well pull out a chair, sit down, and watch the grass grow for a couple hours, because boring is clearly what floats your boat.

But Julie, I can hear some of you saying. I thought design was about solving problems. Shut up. What problem could possibly be more critical than getting rid of that green felt texture in Game Center or figuring out how you can showcase the mystical powers of live-blur in a weather app? Actually, I take that back. There may be one other problem, one colossal, noble problem of undisputable significance:

Designing a good to-do list app.

As you well know, stickies and post-its simply cannot cut it anymore in this day and age. We need an app that can provide you solace and peace of mind as you embark on that brutal quest of going to the grocery store. See, the fatal flaw with the hundreds of to-do apps on the market is that they’re either too complicated or they’re too simple. And the fact that every designer and their dog has a to-do app in their portfolio must indicate to you how truly difficult and important this task is.

Listen, there are going to be distractions. People are going to message you and pull you aside at parties every once in a while and use some of these diversionary tactics. They’ll tell you about massive inefficiencies in healthcare, for instance. Or they’ll furrow their brows and unleash on you some sad tale of how so very few people in the world understand how their finances work. Or how it costs too much money to stay in touch with loved ones. Or they’ll come to you with some harebrained scheme for how we can more efficiently reuse the world’s resources. They’ll say that you, as a designer, can help craft the tools that can fix those problems.

Don’t fall for that shit. Seriously. They clearly aren’t thinking about the pain inflicted onto the world by those heavy-handed buttons or the fussy way the clouds are rendered or the completely mundane manner in which you check a box.

So go ahead. Be a designer. Don’t just sit there. Get off your skinny-jeans ass and do what needs to be done.

Solve the biggest problem in design.