Are Your Projects Beautiful?

By Dan Licht (@thedvl)

Don Norman is a cognitive scientist, an Apple alumnus, and now a professor. His bio says “Don Norman studies how real people interact with design, exploring the gulf between what a designer intends and what a regular person actually wants.”

Isn’t that the trouble with so much of what we creatives love to do?

It’s beautiful! It’s creative! It’s groundbreaking!

What? Does it do what it was meant to do?

Oh. Well.

In this TED talk, Don Norman talks about how good design can make you happy, and how being happy can lead you to your own creativity. Isn’t that a great thought – beauty inspiring beauty.

He discusses three ways that we process the world as we experience it: first, viscerally; second, behaviorally; and third, reflectively. First, we react as the animals we’ve evolved into – we like bright colors, dislike unhappy expressions, fear darkness. Then, we react as we’ve practiced, with skill (if we’ve practiced enough). Finally, we think about thought – why are we doing what we’re doing? And these three levels of processing interact and can complement or fight against each other.

So if good design can smooth things out, so to speak – if it can make you happy, if it can satisfy your brain on all three levels – if good design can make you happier, doesn’t it then follow that good design can also make you healthier?

Think about that this week as you do your work. You need to get your work done in a way that simply works – and a way that relaxes the layers of the mind, makes a person feel comfortable with it both consciously and subconsciously.

(It was obvious that this guy would have worked at Apple, isn’t it?)
If you can create health management tools, health monitoring applications, health improvement services, that feel beautiful to interact with. Don’t tell me that’s only going to have aesthetic benefits. It’s going to increase your uptake, your usage, your effectiveness.

Designer Raymond Leowy talked about “beauty through function and simplification” but I’d go one step further. Beauty improves function and simplification.

What project can you make more beautiful this week?

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