I’m one of the biggest design geeks on the planet, and I love it. Almost every day those little things in life make me almost cry in absolute delight. Delight has become a bit of a buzzword in its own right lately. People and companies toss the word around like it’s meaningless–a shell made of letters and void of meaning. Delight is at risk. But there’s a way to get it back.
Writer and designer Craig Mod works for Medium, a media site with a dedication towards beautiful design and simplicity. In a recent speech at Gigaom’s Roadmap 2014, Mod talks about the things that make Medium’s platform so unique.
Margins, I love. Margins are the parts of the page felt but often unnoticed. They disappear.
He goes on to talk about their eye for design. Medium has clean typography, properly displaying images, and a keen eye for detail. It’s apparent. But more importantly, the creators of Medium took the time to create and upkeep a larger list of little details that make the entire user experience feel that much better.
Among all of the finishing touches–THIS one is among the most important. See it? The quotation marks are outside of the paragraph.
“Unlike most other type editing programs, which don’t use this feature, this keen eye towards detail gives me, the user, confidence about the usability and quality of the rest of their product.
No one ever put intent so much more clearly to me than he. Watching that video might have changed my perspective on life for the better.
Designing for humans
Technology is great. I love almost every bit of it except for its design. Take my cell phone. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Galaxy S5. It’s a great smartphone; full of features you’d expect from a flagship phone and a comfortable design. But comparing it to the Windows Phone 8X I used to have, my phone is severely lacking in one important quality.
The main difference in using my current phone compared to my old one lies in natural feel. This goes beyond the divide between Android, iOS, and Windows Phone into the realm of user interface. Using my Galaxy doesn’t feel natural. The commands and buttons I have to press are often out of my reach; meaning that I have to pull some cellular acrobatics to place a call from my contacts or lower my volume.
And I’m a dude. Women have it much, much worse–as Erin Gloria Ryan pointed out on Jezebel.
Part of the reason that Apple is so popular and successful lies in the way that they seamlessly marry the software and the hardware–creating an almost organic user experience that naturally suggests motions and encourages users to do certain things. On the iPhone 6, the side of the phone encourages users to take advantage of certain features that they discover by playing with the physical phone.
Take a look below. The top phone is the iPhone 5 and the bottom two are the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, respectively. That curved edge on the iPhones 6 almost entices the user to rub against it, making the phone react. That simple detail–the curve that encourages the user to rub up against the device to make it take action without being prompted to do so in effect creates an intimate moment of discovery between the phone and the user.
I’m confident that it’s those moments of gratifying discovery designed into Apple product’s DNA that keep users coming back, despite the feature-packed phones of its competitors.
The big difference
The old clichés about smarter–not harder work and about 10,000 hours of practice come so close to telling the truth about the importance of mastering our craft.
Our craft does not necessarily equal our career–but rather our passions. A mentor of mine stressed the importance of passion to me when I first met him; it literally was the very first question he asked me. At the time, I was a junior in college–and had NO clue. One year later, after careful thought, I came closer to chasing my passion and defining my craft.
For me, it’s people. I love people and human interaction and want to make as many of my interactions with people as positive as I can make them. But I study supply chain–I’ll be working with processes and numbers and efficiency, not people, right?
My career, Supply Chain, falls in line with my craft. Supply Chain allows me to use what I know to redesign processes. Processes involve people doing work. In the past, like today, I start by going to Gemba.
In the world of Lean/Six Sigma, Gemba means “the real place.” When it comes to a practical application of my tasks, it means that I have to go to the source–the workers to find the real cause of a problem. If my job is to make a system more efficient, it means that I have to make the work of others feel organic to them. I have to design a system where one action of many naturally leads to another, like the flowing movements of Tai Chi.
My focus should be on organic actions.
Just like Apple designs for human use by building organic actions into the design DNA of its products. Just like Google is trying to do with its new Material Design philosophy. Just like Medium tries to do with its design.
It’s the action that counts
Learning how to think about our actions and their impact on humans in our lives can take us far in life. Starting now, and continuing through 2015, I will focus on acting with intent. I will strive to build a design philosophy I can extend into my life: Why Mondays Are Cool, my design work, my academic and professional work, and my private life. I want to be able to craft positive relationships and to create a benefit for the human race.
It’s a lofty goal; but if I start now, I just might get closer to reaching it.
Feature photo by Todd Quackenbrush