Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why "Just Enough Is More" is not Enough

In an article on FastCompany's site Co.Design, Tom Hobbs writes about the state of UI design. He argues that "the aesthetic of UIs has followed a dominant ideology that attempts to replicate the physical world". Hobbs is quite skeptical towards this form of "skeuomorphism". The basic argument that Hobbs make has been made before and is a reasonable one. At the same time when Hobbs argues against what he sees as a problematic, or even dogmatic, design philosophy he ends up advocating another philosophy, almost in a similarly dogmatic way.

I have no problem with Hobbs general statement "There’s a lot of making and thoughtful critical analysis to be done of the solutions we create before we evolve approaches and philosophies that are truly unique to the discipline of UI design." This is all good and well. But when he continues and writes that "To do this, we need to design UIs that are stripped down as much as they can be. This means avoiding superfluous and gratuitous ornamentation, both visually and through how they move." Avoiding to copy or metaphorically use the analog or physical world does not have to result in "avoiding superfluous and gratuitous ornamentation" or to follow “just enough is more” (which Hobbs also advocates).

To be designerly means to be able to understand what is appropriate for a particular design. It means to be able to make the required judgments about all aspects involved and about how they come together as a whole in an adequate composition. It is not about applying any predetermined set of principles or patterns. To have and constantly develop once own design philosophy is crucial to any designer, but it does not mean that design should be based on a preconceived notion of what constitutes the best design in any particular context. I am sure this is not what Hobbs means. I understand that what he is trying to do is to argue against a simplistic notion of design, which I fully agree with. But at the same time, it is easy to get the impression from the text that there is another notion of design that is the key to good design. The key to good design is not Metro design language or any other language or principle. The key to good design is  to be able to execute good design judgment.

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