Good design isn’t everything

Last weekend my wife and I moved into a condo and out of the apartment we had since we got married. As I spent a few days carrying boxes up and down stairs I thought about the time we had in our old place. If I examined the experience like a designer a lot of flaws came to mind. The dishwasher leaked into the apartment below us, making it all but unusable; the seals were broken in several windows causing condensation to build up between the panes; for about a year our bedroom window leaked profusely whenever it rained; the boiler frequently ran out of hot water and the walls were painted really bold bizarre colors.

At first glance the laundry list of problems would seem to indicate that we had a pretty frustrating time living there but this wasn't the way I felt. Instead, thinking back made me realize just how much I enjoyed the three years we spent there. The imperfections that I mentioned while annoying didn't impact my overall experience. The reason for this is relationship. The positive experiences interacting with a person far out weighed the negative experiences interacting with objects. If the objects in the apartment had been flawless but the relationship was bad my experience would have been very different.

This is a pretty specific scenario but I think the concept applies pretty well elsewhere. Good design can solve many problems, but the truth is sometimes it can only go so far—I can't accompany a brochure and control the experience a person has interacting with representatives from the organization. My role then is one of creating great first impressions and doing my best to make the object I designed easy and enjoyable to use, after that it's out of my hands.

“Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does.”

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