Is this a good design?

During second week in UCD, I jotted down a quote by Bill Moggridge:

Good design has always been concerned with the whole experience of interaction.

That resonated with me. The design that we are so often tried to be wowed comes from the superfluous flares, an art form for artists.  Take the example of the image above, taken from of a concept for PayPal by Vlad Tyzun. It’s a beautifully fluid animation, great use of typography, well-spaced elements. Is it useful? I don’t think so. This is, in my opinion, a bad example of design. The animation was made for animation’s sake. The whole experience of this interaction takes 4.4 seconds to complete, whereas an elegant fade-in would have been much more functional. This, however, did not stop the post to generate almost a thousand likes and over 30,000 views.

Another example of a beautiful but non-functional design closer to home can be seen in the Blackboard app on Android, and presumably iPhone as well. UCD employs this platform as well, we know best. The current design is funkily fluid, with pleasing animations popping and snapping. But unless that animation was truly used to mask the loading time this app took for the next window, there was no need for the second-long transition screen, not discarding the frequent errors that the app frustratingly presents.

A truly good design is invisible.

New York City Subway Signs

I do not claim credit for inventing this concept: a good design must be legible at a glance. A good design takes care of irritation before it appears. A good design is invisible.

Microsoft’s team before creating their current design language of Metro for Windows 8 has excessively studied the subway signs as guideline, precisely for this reason. Google has adopted the Material design, with priority on modern, clean blocks with priority on ease of finding and reading information. Even Apple, a champion of skeuomorphism previously, has done away with the unnecessary artistic notes it embraced a few years ago.

I’m not taking side on which of these technological giants have the best design chops. I have an Android phone and occasionally run Windows on a Mac.

What Bill Moggridge said back in 1999, primarily referring to physical design, holds completely true with digital world, and I believe it will be relevant across time, platforms and experiences. Taking that to heart, you might notice that my blog does not have much in term of artistic elements – and that’s by design. Sometimes less is more, when it concerns delivering your message.