The Design Debate

26 01 2011

The ongoing debate of what constitutes good design has been brought up once again in Richard Buchanan’s article “Good Design in the Digital Age”. Buchanan argues that good design isn’t just about how a product looks, or how well it performs; it is also about user experience. In order to design a product well, a designer must understand the intimate interactions between the user and the product. The user needs to feel comfortable exploring the product without fear of making errors. The key to good design is to achieve a balance between practicality, ease of use, and how desirable it is.

Buchanan is right. Achieving a balance between usability, usefulness, and desirability is essential to good design. But how can this balance be achieved? The broad range of products in the marketplace means that each case will be different. There is no magical formula for finding the perfect balance to achieve good design. We as designers must take into account a wide variety of factors to ensure the highest level of usability, practicality, and desirability to the largest possible audience. It is impossible to satisfy everyone, so we must find the happy medium that keeps both the client and the target audience satisfied.

When designing interfaces with users in mind, a user experience check list such as this one from the Microsoft Library, may be of assistance.

  One well designed blog I find myself returning to on a regular basis is It is updated consistently (every weekday) with a new awesome thing and is always well written. It is simple in terms of layout and is easy to navigate.


 This diagram depicts user interface design visually.  

Image compliments of




2 responses

26 01 2011

Sarah, I like your idea of keeping and referring to a checklist as part of your process when designing. I agree with you when you say that as a designer, you can’t make everyone happy… That being said, I also agree with you in that a successful design is one that achieves a harmonious balance of aesthetics and usability etc. Recognizing your target audience and finding that balance can definitely help you achieve a good design.

17 04 2011

I agree. The balance of usability and aesthetics boils down to the client’s target audience. Depending on how the client wants to expand themselves (by this I mean the addition of products and services) the design could possibly change with a client’s definition of what their target audience is going to be.

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