7 design principles of highly effective designers

Posted on Mar 31, 2014 in Create | No Comments
7 design principles of highly effective designers

They’re the kings of their profession. They have created design innovations and best-selling products. How are these design legends able to consistently deliver effective design, time after time? Here, in their own words, are 7 principles of highly effective designers:

1.     Design for people

Successful designers put people and their needs, likes and aspirations at the heart of their design… and that is why their creations resonate with people.

“I never design a building before I’ve seen the site and met the people who will be using it”

–          Frank Lloyd Wright

“Design is human-centric. It may integrate economics, but it begins with what’s useful and enjoyable.”

–          Tim Brown

Read more about Tim Brown and IDEO’s philosophy of design thinking, here.

“When I design buildings, I think of the overall composition, much as the parts of a body would fit together. On top of that, I think about how people will approach the building and experience that space.”

–          Tadao Ando

2.     Design for a need

If designing for people is key, it follows that design must answer a need. It is human nature to want to look better, feel better, communicate better. True design innovators have the foresight to identify need even before consumers are aware of it themselves.

“To whom does design address itself: to the greatest number, to the specialist of an enlightened matter, to a privileged social class? Design addresses itself to the need.”

–          Charles Eames

Image: Eames chair

The famous Eames chair designed by Charles Eames

The famous Eames chair designed by Charles Eames

[Photo credit: www.meublesetdesign.com]

Read more about Charles Eames and the Eames office here

“I would think twice about designing stuff for which there was no need and which didn’t endure.”

–          Robin Day

On the other hand, design legends know that giving people only what they want can be dangerous… the key lies in anticipating their desires.

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then give it to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

–           Steve Jobs

3.        Design for effectiveness

This principle is simple and self-evident. However attractive a product is, for it to gain enduring worth, it must work – and work well.

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”

–          Steve Jobs

Slideshow: Steve Jobs with various Apple bestsellers over the years

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[Photo credits: Reuters, AP, Getty Images]

Here are some thoughts from design greats Dieter Rams and JonyIve on design:

4.        Design for relevance

Is your design a part of a coherent whole? Does it make sense?

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.

–          Eliel Saarinen

“Designing a product is designing a relationship.”

–          Steve Rogers

“The real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?”

–          Charles Eames

Image: Eliel Saarinen


The Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen believed that design had to be relevant

[Photo credit: Wikimedia commons]

Read more about Eliel and his celebrated son, Eero Saarinen, here

5. Design till you get it right

Iterate, iterate, iterate! As the famous saying goes, designers know that a creation is not finished, only abandoned.

“I tried a dozen different modifications that were rejected. But they all served as a path to the final design.”

–          Mikhail Kalashnikov

“Our goal is simple objects, objects that you can’t imagine any other way. Simplicity is not the absence of clutter. Get it right, and you become closer and more focused on the object.”

–          Jonathan Ive

Image: JonyIve

jony ive

As JonyIve says, achieving simplicity isn’t simple at all

[Photo credit: Rex Features]

Read more about JonyIve and Apple here

6. Design different

Ultimately, it is not enough to know your users, answer their needs, or create effective products. Your design must be unique and motivate your users to prefer it above all others. The most effective designers are the ones who dare to be different.

“The most innovative designers consciously reject the standard option box and cultivate an appetite for thinking wrong”

–          Marty Neumeier

“To be outstanding – get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

–          AlrikKoudenburg

Of course, it is not enough to be merely different:

“It’s very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.”

–           Sir Jonathan Ive

Image: iPhone 5


The iPhone is one of JonyIve’s designs at Apple

[Photo credit: www.apple.com]

7. Design seeks inspiration

Without inspiration, there is no creation. Leading designers take inspiration from myriad sources – from travel, nature, art, music – from life itself. They fuel their creativity by opening themselves to inspiration, whatever the source.

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

–          Steve Jobs

“Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.”

― Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

Nature was an inspiration for architect Frank Lloyd Wright

[Photo credit: Al Ravenna]

“When you are stuck, walk away from the computer and draw. It will teach you how to see.”

–          Gerard Huerta

“My father was a very good craftsman. He made furniture, he made silverware and he had an incredible gift in terms of how you can make something yourself.”

–          Jonathan Ive

And finally:

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.”

–          Nolan Bushnell

There’s no arguing with that!

What do you think is the most important design principle? Share your thoughts in comments below.

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