I’d like to tell you the story of how I changed my vision of design. I’ve always considered myself a very functional designer until not too long ago, and I’ve always said it with a slight sense of pride. What I mean is that I used to advocate a design in which everything that did not fulfill a strictly rational function within it was expendable. However, there was a moment when my mind clicked and my vision of design has been changing little by little since then.

About 6 months ago, I attended an online talk given by David Navarro, a Valencian designer (now on Twitter), where he talked about tension and creative conflict. He defended creativity and originality. In a world full of systems, processes, data and predictability, he wanted to give some voice to chaos and experimentation. It was that moment where I began to question everything.

digital design
Surface – Unsplash

Designing with common sense

Lately, in a world more globalized than ever (in design like many other disciplines), people advocate doing things right. Thinking about the needs of the user. In an inclusive way. A series of best practices that ensure accessibility that doesn’t overlook anyone in the services offered. And since they’re always the same set of guidelines to take into account, a “systematization” of design is being carried out, in which we know that our designs are going to be used easily and no one is going to be able to complain.

We know what people like. The data does not lie. We reduce the risk that what we do will not fail, to a minimum:

fashion logos
The classic example

David gives more examples of formulas that work in graphic and interior design:

design styles
Examples by David Navarro

In UX / UI design, we also see something similar. To optimize readability and usability, we see many interfaces that adhere to a set of standards for a system created to be universal. On many fewer occasions, the emotional part of the user experience is discussed.

The problem is that systematization leads to killing creativity if we are not careful. When every design follows the same rules without any factor that makes them different, they stop surprising us. They don’t move our emotions. We are flooded by an ocean of sameness in which doing something different is taking risks. You have to have proof or data that this disruptive thing that we’re doing is going to be successful.

This is all very well and I don’t think we have to do without it. But we should go one step further whenever we design.

But designing for human beings

As much as we want to deny it, human beings are emotional. We are animals with instincts although we have reasoning capacity. And I think that’s the beauty.

This is what allows us to enjoy things. If we cling to the purely rational, why live? On many occasions we do not decide what we like. We just like it.

In the same way that we feel safe when everything is under control, risk is low, and we can predict what will happen, we also enjoy a bit of uncertainty. We enjoy challenges and taking small risks that we know we can overcome.

Jeffrey Grospe – Unsplash

We don’t always look for everything that is predictable. In fact, the things that remain most etched in our memory are things that surprise us, that go out of the ordinary (in a positive way, obviously).

Neither one nor the other

Like everything in life, I consider that virtue lies in the middle ground. Achieving harmony between these two points is essential for it to function in this world as in the same way as trying to put order in the midst of chaos.

It is good to systematize, but we also need freedom and break down imposed barriers that all they do is limit us. We redefine limits over and over again, because what was useful yesterday does not have to solve today’s problems, and tomorrow we will need new solutions. The context in which we find ourselves doesn’t stop changing.

The world is neither black nor white and neither should we. Although I use the design as an example in this case, I think that the moral can be applied to many different cases. If you liked the topic, take a look on David’s website at other talks he has given. It is a pleasure to hear you speak. I hope this post has made you reflect in some way. I would love to know what your opinion is if I have left you thinking. Write me a comment.