Does design matter?

I used to think, “Not so much. Functionality is key. Form is just fluff. If it works, it doesn’t matter that much how it looks.”

But I’ve changed my mind on that, based on experience, principle, and theology.

Experience – Bad design leads to bad experience. It could be a frustrating product you just purchased, a poorly designed road system, a confusing building layout, etc.

In contrast, good design leads to good experience (so long as the functionality is there). Think of the first Apple product you ever owned. Everything worked together seamlessly. It was a JOY to use.

Design has a direct effect on our emotions, and we’re constantly interacting with it. It’s presence in our lives is unavoidable, for better or for worse.

Principle – There’s a saying in art that “form follows function.” When you interact with a product or service that doesn’t understand the value of form, you get:

– Functional Ugly
– Functional Frustrating
– Functional Inefficient

When the design of something doesn’t compliment its purpose, it can actually lower the value of the object. Form is not an “add on” to value; it’s an integral part of value.

Conversely, there can be a place for “function follows form.” That is, start with a really creative/beautiful thing, and then see if there are functional uses that can be attached to it.

Either way, form is being valued.

For the record, I do believe in form for form’s sake. I don’t think that design needs to have a utilitarian purpose in order for it to be worthwhile. Here’s why:

Theology – “In the beginning, God created [designed] the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Design – specifically, good design – was God’s idea. He is the ultimate and original artist/designer/architect. Creation is his handiwork, with you and I being its zenith.

I love how so much of the beauty we see in nature isn’t strictly necessary. Like a stunning sunrise. God could have opted for no show, or no colors, but instead he went all out. The same could be said for a lot of things we see.

What is God saying to us through all this? Perhaps, in part, that beauty has its own inherent value.

So last week I was deciding between two different apps to purchase. They both did basically the same thing. One seemed to have a few more features, but the design was terrible. The other was a little less configurable, but had WAY better design. Can you guess which one I picked?

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