Design Is How It Works

I’m constantly reading, and I think you should be too.

Reading design articles that come through my Twitter feed, are in email newsletters, or shared to me from friends are part of my weekly routine as a designer. I recently came across a great quote from Steve Jobs, via an interview, via a book quoting him, inside a Daring Fireball article from 5 years ago ( check it out ). It really resonated with me.

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Websites and Software are Product Design

After reading this, as quotes often can do, I felt that Steve’s quote encapsulates much of how I feel the ideal design process should go for the rest of the web / digital /software / interactive design space. You don’t write 80 pages of content and then figure out the best way of displaying them. Conversely, you don’t participate in the Dribbble-ification of design and come up with a gimmick or slick UI treatment that you then force your content team to squeeze all of their writing into. Unless you are designing a super-simple, one-screen iOS app, working on a complex project should be a collaborative effort between you and your subject matter experts to come up with interesting concepts or ideas of how to approach the issue. From there, you can create prototypes of how it works. Judging from this prototype, whether in InVision, or Principle, or in the browser, you get a realistic idea of what happens and you aren’t just staring at static artboards in Sketch mentally filling in the blanks with assumptions. Make it tangible as soon as possible and you’ll be empowered to iterate that much quicker.

Make it tangible as soon as possible.

Every project is different. Every team is different. But if we don’t have ideals, you have no compass for what to strive towards as a designer, a design leader, a team, a department, or an organization.