Here’s a story for you: a woman has three young children, each armed with a handful of crayons. They are happily drawing on a large sheet of paper, collaborating and sharing colors.
The woman leaves the room for a moment, and when she returns, she is disappointed to find that all the children have started scribbling on the walls.
Squiggly lines of color are everywhere, ruined its pristine job, white paint. Imagine you are this woman. What do you do next? Are you praising the children’s artistic contribution to the decoration? Or do you grab the nearest sponge and start to scrub frantically before the company comes over?
If you’re like most moms, the final answer is obvious, though why? Is it because you want to tyrannize the kids? Violation of their self-expression? Probably not.
More likely, all you need is a sense of order. Three children running fast would quickly get lost with chaotic crayons. And in a world of chaos, no one is happy; neither you nor the children, though they were the ones who started the rage.
Defending Design Simplicity
Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said that “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing else to add, but when there is nothing left to do.” That’s a nice quote, but what does it mean in a practical sense?
Sure, he’s telling us that simple is better than complex. Most of us know that instinctively. No one wants a steam iron pen, a soap dispenser and a toaster oven too. But how can we end up avoiding one? Here’s a secret: it just does not happen.
Source: Quote – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Most people have an opinion about the perfect simple elegant solution to their design problem. The downside is that everyone else has the same problem. Put them all in a room together, and you will have no consensus, only pandemonium.
Everyone will be at odds with each other, and sometimes even with themselves, in search of the “ultimate” solution that will be universally beneficial.
In one of the greatest paradoxes of human nature, when everyone has a say in what they think will make everyone happy, the result – always – that anyone happy.
The basic word of Saint-Exupery is that one must be in charge of a process that makes the individual, final decision.
There must be one person – or a small united group of people – who ruthlessly cuts down the fierce garden of the stream, creating a result that is not what anyone said they wanted, but what is really needed.
They need to be able to think globally rather than provincially. They need to be willing and able to ignore what people have to say and focus on the best objectively.
They need to be in charge, and they need to be vigilant about it. Any move during this crucial moment will resolve the entire operation into the final judgment, leaving a confusing quagmire that will drag everyone about.
In other words, they have to act like Moms.
Don’t Make a Mess
People like to believe that they are an important part of the decision – making process. And they are – but not entirely the way they think.
The role of the consumer in the design process is less and more important than is often seen. It’s not so important because what people tell you is not always relevant.
That may sound hard, but it’s a really good thing. Recall the earlier example of the multipurpose pen. Everyone you ask will tell you something different about what they “really” want in a pen.
Some people will want a pen that can light up. Others will want a pen that does arithmetic. Still, others will want one that can write underwater, or is made from live plant fibers, or that will give off a heavenly smell of freshly baked cookies.
If you are a decent person, you will want to take everyone ‘s thoughts just as seriously. It’s just fair – the customer is always right.
Plus, you might think that all of these ideas look the same – though would not want a pen that can do all those things? In a magical unicorn land, it would be perfect, which is a must have. But here’s the thing about real life: when you add elements, you get mass, and mass equals mess. Let me repeat: features = mass = mess.
And a complete mess contradicts the words of wisdom of Saint-Exupery above. No one likes a mess. The perfect pen that your well-meaning consumer test group envisioned is the size of a bottle of wine and weighs as much as a brick.
Sure, it would have all the features that everyone asked for, but who do you think will actually use it? What people say is not relevant.
As a designer, you need to be prepared, like a good, caring mama, to give them what they are need.
The big, important role of the consumer in the design process – the time they have to light up – is to reflect what they really want in a product. Contrary to what people say, it’s what they want extremely important. Only by solving a need can any designer hope to have a career. But how do you tell the difference?
If you don’t trust people to tell you what they want (and you can’t), how can you figure it out? Should you guess? Do you just create things arbitrarily, assuming you know instinctively what everyone’s needs are?
Of course not. That’s just as careless as adding too much mass. Are you embracing your inner creep and watching them intently, observing their habits and devising an ideal solution based on what you see?
People love to tell you how iconic they are. Everyone else is one way, but they different as (fill in the blank).
The truth is, most people on this planet are very similar in behavior, even people who might surface be categorized as “different.”
Real events from the norm are often frightening – sociopaths and murderers – or clearly obvious mental or personality disorders. The rest of us – indigenous and immigrant people, exporters and introverts, liberals and conservatives, iOS and Android users – are all much more like we’re admitted.
And when we come together to create a market for a product, our actions as a unit usually create it. We show what we have Seriously asking, what we need, how we behave; what we buy, when we buy it, how we pay for it, or even both we pay for it.
This is the meat of good design, which makes it revolutionary. You must insult your inner pulse, or your inner mother, and let your market speak to you not what they say, but what they do.