Daily Tips & Tricks for Web Enthusiasts

Design is How it Works

For the first Design tip on this site I can think of nothing better than this quote:

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. “People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

That’s from a New York Times story, The Guts of a New Machine, which was published at the end of November in 2003. The article is about the iPod, which I didn’t remember until I researched the source of the quote. The article didn’t stick with me, but the quote did, especially that last bit: “Design is how it works.” I can’t count the number of times that quote has surfaced in my mind and kept me from making bad design decisions.

One of the most difficult challenges I had when making this Tips & Tricks site was coming up with an icon for the Design category. Most icons that attempt to represent design use a paint brush, or a pencil, or something like that. I could have created something similar, but this quote kept coming back to me. I didn’t want to reenforce the misconception that design is a coat of paint. Design really isn’t how it looks, it’s not about the veneer, it’s not superficial.

Until I realized this, until I believed this, I was not good at design.

I’ve used this belief as a core guiding principal for years, and it’s served me incredibly well. So, today’s tip is this: Remember that design is, indeed, how it works.