The best design is invisible. It is functional to the point that you forget how it works, you just use it. You might even forget it took effort to invent once upon a time. For any designer creating work for others, this can be a difficult realization to come to terms with. Perhaps what drove us to become designers in the first place was a strong calling to design things. Realizing that the best work you can do means you become invisible requires a lot of growing up to accept.

The key insight is that the very best designs are based on existing patterns. A good design reuses patterns, copies from others, and acknowledges that there is a universal language of consistency. As human beings we crave patterns; they help create rhythm and routine, and they are comforting in their familiarity.
Consistency builds trust.

You might also realize that if the pattern has already been designed, even if by someone else, then what’s left for you to do as a designer? This is a good time to forget your ego and think about the customer, and the customer’s customer. You are doing this for them. And don’t worry: there will still be plenty to do. Although the patterns might already be there, unless you connect them in the right way, you’ll just end up with complexity. In order to achieve simplicity, you must keep removing until there is nothing more you can remove. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry suggested that Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. This is your job as a designer, to create simplicity.
Simplicity builds trust.

Finally, you might realize that by reusing patterns, you can put together good work faster. By not starting from scratch, you are standing on the shoulders of those who came before you. You can spend less time inventing wheels, and more time greasing them. By reusing patterns, by improving them and optimizing, you’re creating a better experience for the end user, and even yourself, as the next project can benefit from the one that came before it. More optimization and less friction leads to gains in speed.
Speed builds trust.

The best work you’ll ever do is likely to be transparent. But such it is: if you do things right, people won’t know you’ve done anything at all.

By Joen A.

Design wrangler at Automattic. I believe in gravity, the moon-landing and human decency.


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