Qualities of Design: It Works and It’s Durable
Post from October 13, 2007 (↻ August 1, 2016), filed under Art and Design.
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 is a technical lead and author (sum.cumo, W3C, O’Reilly). He loves trying things, including in the realms of philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts 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?