02 of 12

Designing for X

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to design for a known target audience. How do you do about designing for everybody, literally?

Google and Microsoft have developed their own design languages (Material and Metro, respectively) and made great efforts to be understandable to people from any culture, anywhere in the world.

Apple has not until more recently gone through the same process – resulting in the “OS X Yosemite design language”. Interesting since Apple traditionally have been very particular about visual design. They have had design guidelines for hardware and apps etc., but not an overarching design system until recently – just to clarify.

Having clear information about the design principles required is one thing, making it easy for designers and developers to use them is quite another.

Here’s a brief look at two ways this can be done:

Material Design is a unified system that combines theory, resources, and tools for crafting digital experiences.

Google is very thorough and have dedicated an extensive website to explain the Material design language: https://material.io (where the above quote can be found by the way).

They are defining dynamic interfaces with interactive motion, provide guidelines, a component library, and an extensive set of icons (If you don’t like icons much, this is almost overwhelming…).

Though “flat design” is a popular meme right now, there is something much, much deeper going on here at Microsoft

 – Steve Clayton

Microsoft made the information about the Metro design language available in a less detailed manner, it is more of a conversational approach. Their story is at the Microsoft website as a blog post of sorts, written by Steve Clayton.

Font choices are also design decisions

Google’s mobile OS, Android use Roboto, a specially designed font, Chrome, their browser use Noto (this is also used for Android for languages not covered by Roboto).

Microsoft Windows use Segoe UI, which is part of a larger font family.

In the world of Linux, there is Ubuntu’s own font, called Ubuntu, which is used as a user interface font.

So why is any of this important?

Making an environment consistent helps the user to understand what they are doing, and in the case of OSs, enabling them to focus on being productive.

The same goes for graphic design, both for print and web publishing.

01 of 12

The Perceived Value of Design

How does the lack of understanding, or lack of knowledge, of how a particular design was created affect the apparent value of it?

Perhaps this is where the digital tools we use creates a false impression of instant and effortless creation. At least in the mind of the average observer, and those who buys design today.

I’ll explain my point using an example – one that I take to for two reasons. Both of them creative in nature.

John Mayer is an American guitarist and songwriter. Since I play guitar (I might stretch the meaning of playing here…) I often look out for something that connects music and design. Here, an English designer, David A. Smith, was hired to design the cover for one of John Mayer’s albums. Just looking at the finished work is impressive, as it is evident that a great deal of thought went into the design and execution of it.

john-mayer-born-and-raised-album-cover

At least for me, knowing the process really adds value to the end product. Watching the following video makes me realise working with glass and etching etc. requires great skill and a lot of patience. 

I also find it relaxing to watch this video, a lesson in the art of slowing down and take time to consider what you are doing!

There is of course more to it than knowing what it took to make something – if the end result doesn’t fit what it was designed for it does not work as intended, so the steps taken before arriving at what type of design to use are vitally important.