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Design Solutions, Not Decorations

Joao Ferreira March 27, 2024 · 4 min read

By definition, Design is a method of problem solving.
Design is not about creating something for your viewing pleasure. It’s about the challenge of solving a problem, something that doesn’t quite work or just feels ´wrong’.
It’s about loving that challenge. The bigger, the better. It’s a quite common perception that a designer’s work is all about how it looks, if the colour scheme matches your preferences or the typeface is your favourite.
But good design is selfless. It’s aimed for the good and needs of others.
It’s about communication. Sending a message and establishing a connection. One that goes directly to your brain, to trigger some kind of emotion that ultimately will lead you to do something.
It’s about research. Understanding your audience and reaching out to them, in a language they comprehend and to say something they want to hear.
It’s about purpose. Good design is intentional, in every step of the way. There are no random decisions and “Because it looks cool!†is not an acceptable argument.

“Great products don’t spring from great designers like Athena from the skull of Zeus; instead, they were usually the result of a lot of trial and error, missteps and blind alleys, and hard work and deep thinking.

There’s no secret sauce.

Great designers aren’t those with the most natural talent, or the smartest, or can draw the best. Great designers are those who’ve designed great products, period. And the only way to design those is the hard way. And while you might have a vision of how the product should be right from the start, it takes a lot of work to get it right.

You have to explore. You have to prototype. You have to test. You have to see it live. You have to see someone using it. Only then do you get a refined design. No one gets it right the first time.â€

– Dan Saffer

If you focus all your efforts on making ´pixel-perfect’ design, creating an awesome gradient on some button or grasping the perfect texture for your background, you’re shortsighted.
You’re not solving the problem, just putting a whole lot of make-up on top of it. It still won’t work. It will still fail.
As designers, we must spend most of our time understanding the problem we’re aiming to solve. We must follow the footsteps of those who we’re solving it for and walk on their shoes.
Design is not about mastering a tool, but about mastering people.
You can’t say you’ve succeeded in your design just because you got your client’s money or a tap on the back from your boss. You should witness what your users are doing with your design, how they are using it and if it made their lives easier. If it empowered them. Your work doesn’t end when it goes online as most of the learning will come from analysing the outcome of your solution.
It takes time to know if your design is successful because it needs to be tested in the real world, by real people, who will use it daily in order to achieve something.
Only then and only them can say if your design is good.
João Ferreira is a web designer and writer at GroupBuddies. You can also find him on Dribbble and Twitter.

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About the Author
Joao Ferreira
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