What is good design?

In my early design interviews, I was asked “What makes good design”, I answered “Good design is design that create delight”. Coming from the development world looking into the world of design that’s what I thought. I was wrong.

“Good design is design that creates delight.”

Delight to me were the little animations that appear in page to pre-filling a form on a page. But are these moments of delight good design if the overall experience had no purpose?

As a developer I was copying the latest trends in design when designing my user interfaces. Round and shiny buttons? Yup did that. Flat design? Yup did that. Following these trends taught me how to use design tools better. I thought that if I knew how to create the latest designs then I would get validation on Behance or Dribbble that I was a good designer. But is it good design if people like the way it looks?

Design is about more than just aesthetics. So what makes it good or bad? How do you evaluate design?

As a hobby I like to cook. Watching how the great chefs describe how they cook and how they can make simple ingredients shine. Every ingredient brings a certain flavour to the dish. Every ingredient has a purpose.

What is the purpose of a design element? For each design element the purpose of it is to be useful in solving a problem. The hypothesis driven design approach from Maximilian Wambach has changed the way I approach design. It is how I frame my design tasks:

If [action]
Then [outcome]
Because [customer need/problem]

Design hypotheses focuses the design so that each decision to add or remove an element has to contribute to solving the problem. If it is not helping solving the problem, then it has no purpose. If it has no purpose then why have it?

“Good design solves problems”

This way of approaching design works no matter if you are working with shiny buttons or flat ones. Delight can only come after you first make the design useful.

Design works when you are solving problems.

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