What is “Good” design, anyway?

Posted on March 10, 2008 17:33 by blything

Have you ever wondered that? We’re exposed to so much “Design” these days, it seems that for the most part, expectations are pretty high, but not always closely followed by clear understanding of what “Good” design actually is.

I’m on shaky ground here, I know.  For openers, I’m using the word “Good” in the title and lets face it, if anyone wants to get into subject / object dualism, I’m screwed – but bear with me.
I’m going to list two examples of design, which to me are near perfect solutions, because they have something in common.

Photo: (c) flickr.com/people/bru

1.    The Starck Lemon Squeezer
The problem which this piece of design is solving is this – “How do I extract the juice from citrus fruit”. Not the most exciting problem to solve, but oh how it was solved! Look at the form of this and try to simplify it. Not possible!

2.    The humble Pencil
Like all excellence in design, the pencil is designed to do one thing very, very well. It’s simple and to me, beautiful. Stick a rubber on the other end if you must.

What do they have in common?

Simplicity. It would be very, very hard to simplify either of them without rendering them non-functional. It looks childishly simple, doesn’t it?

In hindsight.

But of course, that’s the trick with design. Getting to the beautiful, efficient simplicity from the mess of conflicting agenda, functionality requirements and the wishes of the dreaded committee.

Einstein said “solutions to problems should be as simple as possible, but no simpler” and he had a point. Picture the lemon squeezer with one less leg, or the pencil without the wood..

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