Evaluating design

Most people seem to evaluate a piece of design primarily at a visual/emotional level. Discussions involve words like beautiful, cool, attractive, like, love and so on. While there is an undeniable emotional aspect to design, evaluating it mainly on looks diminishes the potential of design to make real, lasting differences.


Engineers, builders, manufacturers tend to evaluate design on how well something works, how easily it can be manufactured, how it will hold up in use, and how recyclable it will be. Form may well follow function, but when the functional data-points dominate the decision making, a piece of design can lose its “soul.”


Ideally, I propose a slightly more technically-biased position as shown below. The bias is needed because visuals are only a small part of the overall package. There are many technical/functional aspects of design that we still don’t sufficiently consider – like usability and disposability.


Adopting a more logical/rational approach to design makes it easier to teach. A process is certainly more approachable than waiting for ephemeral muses to strike. This can only make design (and design thinking) more accessible to a wider audience.


  1. Dorit d'Scarlett said:

    Good post as I’m all about universal design which is accessibility (usability) weighted greater than appearance but also considering the importance of appearance as a neccessary emotional usability factor

  2. Zern said:

    Yes! Appearance does play a part in emotional usability.
    Pondering the usability impact of appearance may be a good conscious way to make more use of the appearance factor in design beyond just a style thing.