11 April 2004
I'm sure that you've hated something. The Spice Girls, Cherry Coke, the new VW Beetle. And I'm sure that you've hated something, but found two years later that you love it. The Smashing Pumpkins, iced tea, the new Mini. We're pretty fickle when it comes down to it, and good design seems to age like a fine wine; the vintage remains after all the dross has been sold at garage sales or carted down to the tip. This kind of subjectivity, however, has an alarming effect on design.
If something's true potential isn't realised until a few years down the track, how do you stop a great idea/design from being tossed aside by a near sighted decision maker? Designers live and die by their clients. Someone has to give a project the big tick, and they usually aren't a designer. If you've slaved over a design for hours upon hours and then the person paying the bills says they don't like horizontal menus, what can you do? Sometimes you can argue the point, but you don't want to push it too far, because changing the design isn't as drastic as losing a client, or getting fired.
I look at Jonathan Ive and Apple, and think of one of the greatest design partnerships of the past few decades, but what if Steve Jobs had said that he didn't like the iMac being so curvy? Translucent bits? I don't think so. After reading Adam Greenfield's piece, The Bathing Ape Has No Clothes, it reinforced my own views on style versus design, but also made me more aware that people in general aren't able to separate the two; if they don't like it, then it isn't well "designed".
At higher corporate levels – the brands that shape the World – I'm sure they have a much more objective process for deciding what's good and what's not, but at an everday level how do you mitigate the effects of opinion on reasoning? Can you persuade a client? Do you suck it up and go back to the drawing board? Or don't you kowtow to the almighty dollar and only allow chosen clients to receive your services – the ones whose design karma aligns perfectly with your own?
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