The Importance of Clarity in Design

Mark Busse – No Comments

How do you measure design?

Valuating (and evaluating) design can be difficult as it isn’t easy to just assign criteria to empirically and impartially quantify—it is often what is “felt” that makes a particular design effective or not. No two people value design in the same way. There is no ruler we can all use.

There is intrinsic value in the end product, there is often greater value in the process that led to it. Realizing that the exercise of objectively assigning criteria to process and/or artifact (which often has to be experienced or subjectively “felt”) is fraught with challenges.

One of the most important aspects in creating a great design is the art of clarity. This means that everyone involved in the branding process or design needs to be clear on what they want/need (i.e. goals and objectives), and everything involved in the process needs to make sense. Not just to one party, but to all parties. (Incidentally, this is also true in communications, business plans, and almost all other aspects involving collaboration of some sort). One of the most common issues for designers is when the non-creative management types try to “dictate the creative output”. We all have predisposed ideas of what something should look like in it’s final form, but too often we don’t let the branding process play out before intervening. Clients can have great creative ideas and I encourage designers to explore them, but when it comes down to making a decision it is a good idea for clients to trust the strategic recommendations of their expert designer (this is probably the reason you hired them in the first place).

For a design to work well, here is a short list of all the factors designers will look at:

1. Clarity: Do you understand the content? How does design facilitate understanding?

2. Freshness: Have you seen anything like this before?

3. Relevance: Will the design aid in the client’s message resonating with the target audience?

4. Social impact: How has design enabled/facilitated positive change?

5. Sustainability: Is this process and the product socially, culturally, environmentally, and economically responsible?

6. Functionality: Does this achieve what it sets out to do? What role does design play in accomplishing that?

7. Educational: Has design facilitated learning or new knowledge?

8. Popularity: Do you want to share this?

9. Achievability: How has the design process added value?

10. Respect: Who values this: other designers, the client, the end user, the public?

Certain criteria like Clarity, Freshness, Relevance, Popularity are easier to judge, while Social Impact, Functionality, Educational Value require more information.

a) Is the concept original?
b) Is it superior in some way?
c) Does it solve the problem?
d) Will it produce results? (this could be social contribution, fiscal results, public relations buzz, or any number of tangible results you are after.)

Last (and definitely not least) is personal satisfaction. How do your personally measure the success of the design? You may have not ‘got your way’ with every aspect of the design, but what are you proud of? As a professional, what would you consider including in your portfolio?