Good Design Is the New Mediocre

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David Sherwin on his very cool ChangeOrder blog writes that:

Good design is the enemy of great design.

This isn’t to say that good design gets in the way of great design, since the latter is only possible when surrounded by the former. But our hardest struggles as designers emerge when we confront what could be great, rather than what is thoroughly good.

While not the most original quote, (anyone know who first said it?) it comes back to us at the right time. As we move towards a hyper competitive environment when everyone in more than capable of Good Design, going with just Good is really going with mediocrity.

I often cringe when I hear, “this is good enough”, because it will not be. Someone, likely the competition, will take that extra step or that extra iteration and make it better than you. The end result is that you will likely have a failed product in the market place.

So we keep pushing our designs and give it our best. But how do we know when to stop? People often complain that designers can’t stop designing. The engine just keeps going on and on. I honestly don’t have a simple answer for you, but part of a designer coming of age is to know when to stop and take a step back to access the situation.

However I like to look at it from another point of view. I prefer designers go as far as possible and then get brought back to earth, rather than not go far enough. Simply because no one else will do this and if left to others you will likely get less than Good, by which we already know, is the new mediocre.

So are you ready to go from good to great? If so check out David’s 7 tips, which I’ve taken the liberty to summarize. (My additional comments in brackets)

1) We often don’t know what’s great until someone else points it out for us.

2) We choose to lose ourselves in a flow experience, rather than opting for key moments in our work where we gauge our level of effort versus the result.

3) Great design requires great waste. (or the willingness to throw it all away and start again.)

4) We lack a strong sense of design’s history, which keeps us from recognizing the circadian rhythms of our daily output. (Learn from successes from the past, as well as understand what consumers recognize or are able to relate to.)

5) Great design work frequently seeks to transcend the boundaries of design itself. (Design can be art.)

6) Great design becomes like water over time. The designer’s ego must be cast aside in the face of society’s desire. (Great design at the end of the day is all about the user and how he/she will enjoy using it.)

7) Great design is identified in hindsight. (The environment or the “context” the product exists in, influences a great design. Great examples I can think of are the original Mini or VW Beetle,.)

Do check out the full version at his blog. Well done David.

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