Design Groupthink

From Articulating Design Decisions by Tom Greever:

When I interview designers for a role on my team, I always ask them, What makes a good design good?” The way people answer this question tells me a lot about how they think about design and, in particular, UX. Most of the answers are predictable, but they often tend to sound something like this: a good use of space,” simplicity,” or one of my favorites, when you can’t remove anything else.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with those answers. They express how a lot of people approach design, but they aren’t truly what make a design good in the eyes of a business. It’s not the approach I want for designers on my team because they speak to subjectivity—to an aesthetic that not everyone will agree on.

I’m not exactly sure where these designers come up with definitions that sound like something straight out of a Jonathan Ive memoir. I don’t think they learned it in art school. What concerns me is that I think they picked these catchphrases up from a social-media design phenomenon where UX means something that looks as cool as an iPhone.” They’ve adopted it from a popularity-contest mentality that believes pretty things are the same as usability. It’s the same culture that causes well-intentioned designers to create a redesign” mockup of any popular website or app without any clue as to what that business’s needs are. It’s less about solving problems and more about likes.

The truth is, all design is subjective. What one person likes, another person hates. What seems obvious to me might not be obvious to you. What works in one context could fail miserably in another. This is why design is such a difficult thing to talk about, especially with people who aren’t designers. There is little common understanding of what design is or should be.