Jens Oliver Meiert

Qualities of Design: It Works and It’s Durable

Post from October 13, 2007 (↻ August 1, 2016), filed under .

Attempting to improve my simplified definition of design—“design reveals”—I identified 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 e.g. an iPod, a product that is usually considered well designed, and imagine it broke after a few weeks. Or something industrial design, an excavator for instance, that doesn’t make 100 miles. Or a website that is communicating clearly and converting well but “programmed” so poorly that it needs to be refactored every time a new feature is added. Good design, but still not good since it’s not robust.

The simplified definition appears to hold water in practice, and the “extended definition” seems to complement it appropriately. Although, any definition that filters out decoration works better than what seems to be the popular understanding of design.

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of July 27, 2015.

Jens Oliver Meiert is a developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google) and philosopher. He experiments with art and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

There’s more Jens in the archives and at Amazon. If you have any questions or concerns (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.

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?

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