Why Having Values Matters
So what effect does a designer’s beliefs have on the output he produces? First of the beliefs will guide the multitude of choices that need to be made in order to get to the final result. This means that if he is true to his values the product will reflect how the designer thinks about the world and perhaps most importantly how he thinks about the users of his product. Are they too unobservant to separate chromed plastic from metal? Are they attracted to all that glitters? Are they perhaps so smart that you can trust them to memorising 34 different input variations? All of these questions are answered in how you make your product.
Another important result of value guided design is that the product gets character. Better to make a statement loud and clear than having something without direction or thought behind it. A modern example of this would be the Windows Phone 8 operating system. They went all out and completely ditched all skeuomorphic elements and went with a fully digital flat design instead. This speaks of a belief that we are truly in the digital age and that references to old artefacts are not needed for the user to understand the OS. Now of course IOS and Android have followed suit but neither have done it in the wholehearted way WP8 did (to be clear I am not saying that WP8 is the best OS on the market as it has a lot of shortcomings).
Lastly, the values you embed in your product will spread and others will adapt them. The most prominent example of this today would be Apple. When I freelance Apple gets mentioned as the targeted look in about half of the assignments I do, they really have had a great influence on the consciousness of the public.
So after all this talk what are my values? Well as cliché as it is I will have to defer to the ten principles for good design by Dieter Rams. However much I think and poke at them they just seem undeniable to me.
The principle that I identify with the most is that a good design must be honest. I’d like to expand that one a bit and also say that the product must be honest to what it is and the elements that constitute it. For example in an on-ear pair of headphones there is little reason to make the ear cups any other shape than round as the speaker driver elements are round.
So when all is said and done what is the moral of the story? It’s simply that having values as a designer matters.