Why Design Isn’t Subjective

Ok, I can already hear you saying ‘yes it is’ as you debate your favourite colours, car choices or whether anyone really liked Laurence Roderick Llewelyn-Bowen’s interior design (nineties reference… really?) But yes, I’m here…

manchester design agency

Ok, I can already hear you saying ‘yes it is’ as you debate your favourite colours, car choices or whether anyone really liked Laurence Roderick Llewelyn-Bowen’s interior design (nineties reference… really?) But yes, I’m here to briefly explain why design isn’t subjective.

I think we often confuse this subject because we see art as subjective. We also see style as subjective – the way we dress or decorate our homes – having a sense of style (or lack of) differs from person to person. But design is not the same as style. Design is there to serve a purpose and to solve a problem. 

Good design is made up of three categories: aesthetic, function and experience. All three need to work well to create a good product / website / flyer / vase (you get the jist):

Aesthetic design

The aspect of design you could argue is subjective is aesthetic design. It’s the shape, layout, material, font, or colour choices. It’s the bit we see first. 

When deciding on the aesthetic design we don’t just design what we prefer – as much as we’d love to, we don’t just pick our favourite colours, fonts, shapes and textures. We need to respond to the brief, which defines the problem we need to solve. (We’ll also help develop that brief, but that’s for another blog post!)

Creating a brand from scratch, for example, requires a knowledge of the target audience and also getting deep into the personality of a brand. Is it playful or serious? Is it quiet and minimal or bold and busy? Aesthetic design will send the right message to the right people.

Functional design 

The second part of design is function. From engineers to web developers, making sure a design actually works is integral. Functional design is invisible. You only tend to notice it when something isn’t working.

Experience design

The picture you can find by clicking here (but which we couldn’t include here for copyright reasons) sums up experience design well. This mug looks lovely, and has all the functionality a mug needs – a handle to lift and the ability to hold tea or coffee, however the experience using it isn’t so great…

Experience design is user focussed, and can be hard to measure quantitatively. It’s the feel of your hands gripping a steering wheel; it’s the feel of opening the sleek iPhone packaging; it’s feeling effortless and in control when browsing a website or purchasing online. 

As designers we’re always considering all three. Navigation on a website is a great example of everyday design that covers all three bases:

  • Firstly we have to work out what the user is looking for and how to organise it in a way that makes sense. It should be quick, simple and pain-free (experience) 
  • It needs to look the part and stay in keeping with the brand (aesthetic) 
  • And when you click on the link, it’s got to work! (function)

Whether it’s web design, posters, flyers or videos, design is not subjective. An advert could be a work of art, but if no one knows what the product or event is, it’s bad design.

Looking for a Manchester Design Agency?

Creation ADM is a leading Manchester design agency. From print work, to digital, to online presence, to branding, it all has to start with a great idea. And that idea has to be crafted. This is where good design has its place. It’s at the heart of all we do. And we do it well. To find out about our services, or to discuss a brief, please get in touch with the team on 0161 236 3939.

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