ARCHIVE: June, 2006

The Secret They Don’t Tell You in Graphic Design Class

People find things that work well endearing. That’s the secret.

When things work well, we see them in a new light. They become more attractive, more pleasurable, more desirable. Our opinion of them strengthens over time.

Our initial reaction, usually a superficial one based solely on looks, is vaporized upon use. If it doesn’t work well, then no matter how impressive your graphics are, it doesn’t matter. (think about all of the graphic design done for American-made cars). If it does work well, however, then we give it even more value than before, we attribute all sorts of things to it that we wouldn’t otherwise. We think it looks great. That its designers are nice people. That the site owners are credible. Etc. Our opinion of all attributes of a design skyrocket if we are happy using it.

In the graphic design classes I’ve taken they never told us that. It was all about directing the eye, communicating the product’s message, and showing priority. There was never any talk about how people related to the product we were designing the graphic for. Perhaps I’ve only taken bad graphic design classes, but this still seems to be the general feeling…that graphic design exists in a bubble outside of the success of the product and that people will appreciate graphic design as long as it looks good. Most people, however, don’t give a hoot about graphic design unless the thing works well…first.

So, as a graphic designer, make sure that you work on stuff that has the potential to work well! If it does work well your great-looking graphics will get much of the credit. And if your graphics help make it work even better (e.g. if you’re doing interface design), then you deserve the credit. But if you’re working on a project that just can’t work well because of an innate flaw in the product itself then you’re on a sinking ship. Say no to it, and stick to projects on which you can affect the outcome.

This secret is why it’s so important to get people using your software/product/service as fast as you can. If any part of it works, people’s perception of it changes and they’ll tell others. Design becomes social. And others, hearing what they say and knowing deep down we find things that work well endearing, are more likely to take the chance and use it themselves.

And then, after they like using the product, they’ll go back and notice how nice the graphics are.

Find the Edge of Attention

Is attention worth tracking?

Continue Reading: Find the Edge of Attention

More on The MySpace Problem

When ugliness masks useful design.

Continue Reading: More on The MySpace Problem

The Chanel No. 5 Lesson

Experience precedes branding.

Continue Reading: The Chanel No. 5 Lesson

How we make sense of what we see

Question from Me: Why do you think that usability and visual design aren’t often associated with each other?

Part of the answer from Luke Wroblewski

“Well Curt Cloninger once wrote that usability experts are from Mars and graphic designers are from Venus, so it could be that. But truthfully, I think it stems from the fact that many people aren’t versed in what determines how we make sense of what we see.

Luke is one of the few people trying to crack this nut. I think, for the sake of design in general, that the bridge between usability and visual design has to be made. Instead of arguing all the time, we need to come up with a common, shared language that we can use to communicate.

Much more here: Where Visual Design Meets Usability – An Interview with Luke Wroblewski, Part I

Time Spent Designing

Alan Foreman, after what was undoubtedly a serious scientific inquiry into the matter, has researched and catalogued the time spent doing modern web design. If you are a designer unsure of where or how to spend your time, this is for you.

The Origin of Bokardo

A quick history of the naming of this website.

Continue Reading: The Origin of Bokardo

The Non-collision of Relationship and Independent George

Why the distinction between our online and offline lives is less meaningful every day.

Continue Reading: The Non-collision of Relationship and Independent George