Qualities of Design: It Works and It’s Durable

Published on October 13, 2007 (↻ September 23, 2022), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Attempting to improve my simplified definition of design—“design reveals”—I’d like to point out another important attribute beside functionality, namely durability (or robustness). This means that a design—be it physical or intangible—that works may nonetheless be bad if it breaks quickly or needs frequent updating.

We just need to think of an iPod, a product that is usually considered well-designed, and imagine it broke after a few weeks. Or something industrially designed, an excavator for instance, that doesn’t make 100 miles. Or a website that is communicating clearly and converting well but written so poorly that it needs to be refactored each time a new feature is added. Good design, and yet still not good because not robust.

The simplified definition appears to work, and this “extended definition” seems to complement it nicely. Although, almost any definition that filters out decoration may work better than popular readings of design.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. On October 17, 2007, 3:40 CEST, Stefan Nitzsche said:

    Recently I read that the iPod never went through extensive user tests. Do you know if it‘s true?

  2. On October 22, 2007, 21:08 CEST, Clay Newton said:

    Maybe with regard to design/art/decoration:

    Art is an end in and of itself.
    Design is utilitarian; it is a means to an end.
    Decoration is pleasurable.

    With all three of these classes of stuff, there is the good, bad and the ugly.

    I don’t feel that these 3 classes are comprehensive. For instance:

    Artifact is a historical representation of object state.
    Definition description of object.

    Jens, do you think this is a valid extension? If so, what other classes are there?