The text below was written in response to an internal effort to dissect the meaning behind the idea of “world class design” and begin steps to developing some actionable techniques to consistently generate this type of work within an agency.
The term “world class” is inherently rooted in the notion of a larger perspective. A global perspective. When we talk about our work as being World Class, I think we’re talking about work that could be viewed from any angle, anywhere in the world, and be considered “good”.
WORK THAT HOLDS UP.
For work to withstand the test of time and place, it will need to be bigger than itself, larger than the immediate needs of the project. There are two things we’ll need to generate this kind of work:
- AN OBJECTIVE GUIDE: A set of criteria that is impervious to the needs of the moment to guide the work that we do.
- A DYNAMIC GUIDE: A person who is a stakeholder in (and evaluated on) the longevity of the work, not the immediate need.
THE OBJECTIVE THINGS.
There are several things that must be a part of our criteria. Here are a few thoughts that try to combine company objectives, user-centered design, and some principles from the great Dieter Rams.
- Does the work align with the company’s vision and priorities?
o Not only overall, but we must track the different elements of the vision and make sure that the work we do is a balanced representation of all the aspects of our vision.
- Are the end users represented in this work?
o Insight and Need must come directly from the user, and the product’s adoption depends entirely on our ability to understand these.
- How is this work innovative?
o We must be able to identify the specific aspects of the design that are innovative. This is the work’s story and it’s key benefit.
- Is this work aesthetically successful?
o One of the fundamental values of design is to marry form with function. If we don’t think our work is beautiful, it shouldn’t go out the door.
- Is this work thorough?
o Have we thought of everything? Is it designed all the way around? We have to consider the tiny details that support the big ideas in order to deliver maximum value to our clients.
THE DYNAMIC THINGS
It takes a driven individual to ensure that we’re holding true to these criteria. But more than that, the execution of any doctrine is all in the interpretation of the text. The application of these ideas to our daily challenges takes some serious “customer support”. It’s the difference between an FAQ list on a website and getting someone on the phone to discuss your unique circumstances.
There’s a natural tension between the chaos of a projects immediate needs (client requests, budgets, timeframes) and the stoic tranquility of these timeless guidelines. In order for them to be useful to us, we’ll need this intermediary to pull these ideas down from their pedestal and become actionable in the mucky trenches of daily design work.