Memorable design isn’t about following the latest trends, creating branding for a company based on what is fashionable at that moment in time. (however much some companies will ask for exactly that)
Good design is something that you barely notice the first time you encounter it. The best example that I always come back to is the London Tube map, first designed in 1931 by Harry Beck.
Beck was a London Underground employee who realised that because the railway ran mostly underground, the physical locations of the stations were irrelevant to the traveller wanting to know how to get to one station from another — only the topology of the railway mattered. To this end, Beck devised a simplified map, consisting of stations, straight line segments connecting them, and the River Thames; lines ran only vertically, horizontally, or on 45 degree diagonals.
It immediately became popular, and the Underground has used topological maps to illustrate the network ever since.
What Beck achieved with his design, was an understanding of design in both form and function. The simple nature of his circuit board like design provided a simple and clear function for commuters, helping them to understand their route at a glance, and providing the blueprint of other underground system across the world to emulate.
From a purely design perspective, Beck’s example gives us a great understanding of where design becomes something tangible and useful, providing both form, in it’s simplistic colour coded design, and function, in it’s core usage.
Design as strategy.
Since Beck’s time design has evolved further, providing not just form & function but also insightful and useful strategies to businesses across the world.
Now more than ever there’s an sea of change within the startup scene where design is considered critical, often playing an instrumental role in driving success. Companies around the globe are attaching themselves to the importance of user experience, becoming agile, moving design as styling to design as strategy, and cultivating user-centred ways of operating.
In Britain, the UK Design Council created a report in 2013 to show that design is linked to profit, and that ‘for every £1 spent on design, businesses see a £4 increase in net operating profit’.
“The most innovative companies in the world share one thing in common, they use design as an integrative resource to innovate more efficiently and successfully”
Design has grown up and taken it’s place in business and something to embrace and understand fully, as a means to achieve success with the right thinking. With more focus on good UX/UI practises, and a leaning toward user-centered design and communication, the designer is now able to affect the way a product or service is used, not just how it looks.
We are now in a position were design can inform and aid on all levels of a business, through creating social media strategies, building products and services based on the fundamental understanding of their usages, and designing something that at first won’t even be noticed as design.
Beck would be proud… and probably significantly better paid if he was still around.