Qualities of Design: It Works and It’s Durable
Post from October 13, 2007 (↻ June 12, 2021), filed under Art and Design.
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 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 work, and this “extended definition” seems to complement it nicely. Well, almost any definition that filters out decoration may work better than popular readings of design.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
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Recently I read that the iPod never went through extensive user tests. Do you know if it‘s true?
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?
Have a look at the most popular posts, possibly including:
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.