Dear 25 year old me,
You had a bit of a thought the other day while trying to explain to a colleague why design thinking, and at the crux of it, design principles, really matter.
When going through a tertiary institution learning this foundation theory, it’s easy to skim over it and think “oh, that’s nice, but when can we start doing the real stuff?”.
Little do you know (or choose to accept) at the time is that having this knowledge actually forms the basis of everything you end up doing day to day, informing the decisions that you make as a designer moving forward.
I’ve categorically found so far that self taught web designers who have researched these principles as part of their learning journey and understand how to apply them generally produce higher quality work. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule but it’s few and far between.
I found it a little tricky to explain “why” this was to my colleague, so I turned to a trusty analogy to help my cause.
Architectural or automotive analogies usually work when explaining product value, but I needed something a little more creative to get my point across this time.
The answer was… Lasagne.
I’m a food fanatic and lasagne would probably have to be my favourite dish, so really, I had no choice but to use it to help form my case.
I proceeded to describe my thoughts as such;
Great design is like making a tasty lasagne.
Everyone can pretty much make lasagne, right?
Heck, you could even go down to the store and purchase a pre-made one if you really wanted to. There’s naturally the quality difference that comes with this and how tasty and memorable that lasagne is going to be will depend on a combination of the quality of the ingredients and the skills of the chef that’s making it. In addition to this, they not only need the right tools to be able to make the dish, but also be equipped with the experience in how to use them.
Some people aren’t fussy with their lasagnes, and that’s ok, but once you’ve had a really amazing one you never forget it… Am I right? <also, getting hungry>
All lasagnes firstly need a solid base. Although varying lasagnes have foundations that are built on common ingredients such as onions, garlic and tomatoes, the way in which they’re prepared (the method), makes the difference.
Once someone knows the basics to making a lasagne and understands the steps taken to make it, that’s when the magic can start to happen through creativity and experimentation. Variations of the recipe and complimenting ingredients can begin to be explored.
With that core understanding of how the various ingredients come together, the chef can be creative with their dish, making it something unique and successful.
Cooking. There are so many variations possible but only certain formulas will work. Creativity meets science?
Indeed it’s also the experienced chef who can also ‘fix’ dishes that don’t quite develop out as planned. Even if it didn’t work out, they can often still adjust the flavours to still end up with a tasty dish rather than needing to throw it out and start over.
This is the problem solving aspect of it, which to me applies to both cooking and design, and is something that can develop from an understanding of the core principles.
Like you wouldn’t need to tell an experienced chef that onions, garlic and tomatoes are ingredients that combined, prepared the right way and at the right temperature are a winning combination, you wouldn’t need to tell an experienced designer that alignment, balance, contrast, proximity and repetition applied effectively are at the core of every effective design.
Of course, there’s more to making a lasagne than the onions, garlic and tomatoes, and much the same can be said about design beyond the five principles mentioned.
Knowledge + understanding + experience = a creative and tasty recipe for design.
Now… Off to make some lasagne!
Until next time,