2/09/2009

Design: a brain-dump

first posted July 4th, 2008 on LiveJournal

Good Design
  • is not aesthetics. 
  • is invisible to the user. 
  • reliable. 
  • fails gracefully. 
  • idiot-resistant. 
  • intuitive to use. 
  • It crosses all disciplines - architecture, engineering, sociology, urban studies, environmental studies, anthropology, history, etc. 
  • Understands the legacy's preceding it and the cultural environment it is entering. 
  • environmentally sustainable. 
  • economically sustainable. culturally-suitable and relevant. 
  • User-maintainable, repairable, and versatile. 
  • driven by the stakeholders (democratic). 
  • not compromised into uselessness - an over-riding vision and authority must be decisive on a direction. 
  • edited and refined constantly. 
  • elegantly-efficient. 
  • Macintosh (this one is provisional - it still has a looong way to go - there's still too many fixable flaws in OS X). 
  • Most Western-European cities. 
  • NYC. 
  • Portland. 
  • Japan's Passenger Railroads. 
  • America's Diesel Locomotives. 
  • The Spanish Talgo trainsets (97% uptime!!). 
  • Honda. 
  • Toyota. 
  • Intermodal containers. 
  • Firewire (beats USB hands down). 
  • The Knuckle coupler. 
  • Ball bearings. 
  • the pencil. 
  • Two-finger trackpad scrolling. 
  • The Humvee (but not the Hummer). 
  • The turbine. 
  • The lens. 
  • The staple (better still is the paper staple - so clever but less versatile http://www.treehugger.com/files/2004/12/stapless_staple.php).
  • Helvetica. 
  • the new NS logo. 
  • The McGinnis B&M logo. 
  • The Chessie System logo.
  • The rail. 
  • The book Cradle to Cradle (the tree-less paper that book is printed on is simply amazing - way better than tree-pulp paper, and the book itself is awesome). 
  • The Firefly class ship

Bad Design 
  • is conventional for the sake of convention. 
  • Unconventional for the sake of unconventionality. 
  • Ignores/disrespects the past. 
  • Refuses to break from the historic forms. 
  • Designed from one perspective alone (everything looks like a nail if you have a hammer - engineers and architects fall into this all the time). 
  • Pretty but useless. 
  • Inflexible. 
  • Designed to be easy to make regardless of utility. 
  • Makes the user feel stupid because it's hard to comprehend. 
  • Makes decisions with no attention to the trade-offs. 
  • Designed with no knowledge of the context. 
  • Greenwashed. 
  • Designed to minimize UPFRONT costs only. 
  • Designed by committee with no unified vision or editing (open source all too often falls into this... Linux, Firefox for Mac). 
  • Socially-irresponsible. 
  • Ego-driven. 
  • Authoritarian. 
  • The Ecotarium facilities. 
  • The UMass campus. 
  • Windows. 
  • Every cell phone ever made (the iPhone finally broke that trend - it's not "good" design, yet, but it's the first that isn't bad design). 
  • SPRAWL. 
  • Houston. 
  • LA. 
  • GM. 
  • Ford.
  • Acela. 
  • The Hummer (but not the Humvee). 
  • Anything manufactured in Chinese sweat-shops (yes, this includes many of the things I consider good design - they can be both. deal with it). 
  • Libertarian. 
  • The Leopard 3D dock. 
  • OS X and Vista's eye-candy bloat. 
  • Wall-wart power bricks (universal power adapter's PLEASE?! USB would serve as a good 5v standard or Firewire for 12V...). 
  • The Sylvan suites. 
  • Non-user replaceable parts in Apple hardware. 
  • Proprietary formats, plugs, interfaces, etc. 
  • The new Amtrak logo. 
  • The CSX logo. 
  • The Death Star 1...

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