I worked as a designer for twelve years and, over the last two years, I've acted as a founder and creative director at Norde design agency. All this time I have been observing a rapid growth of interest in design and, today, it is obvious that good design can become a key competitive advantage for any business. But what makes a good design? That's the question!
In 1957, Dieter Rams formulated “Ten principles of good design”, which are difficult to argue with. But in the modern context of a digital, global and rapidly changing world, the meaning of having a good design can vary for different companies.
For example, the main and only thing required for a good design is often its effectiveness. However, there are dark patterns of design that are very effective, but can this be used as an example of a good design? Hardly. There are other criteria to make a good design: aesthetic, simple, adaptive, contextual, hierarchical, user-centric, consistency, etc. They all sound good, but it’s hard to apply these common vague terms to a specific design of a particular business.
The design is not an exact science, and it is true that any design can be improved. Literally, any design! Over the years that I've spent in this industry, I learned that design follows the Pareto principle: 20% of key design improvements give 80% of the result.
As a freelance designer, I often participated in the design processes at different stages of projects for reviewing and evaluating the current design as a third-party consultant. Then I had the idea to create a separate branch, which eventually grew into Design Critique. For half a year, the project worked behind the scenes, mainly with current Norde clients: we put a team of great art-directors together and fleshed out the operating processes. Now, we are ready to go public with Design Critique.
This is the basic principle of design and Design Critique, in particular. We as people are created in such a way that we positively perceive harmony and balance around us. This also works in design: balanced design is perceived intuitively, it is efficient and pleasing to the eye, so a good designer determines the quality of the design and notices its problem areas in just a few seconds, while a bad one operates with artificial and false rules without seeing the full picture.
Also, the main problem of design consulting is that the result of this work is a huge multi-page, incredibly boring document that is difficult to read, and even more so hard to work with on a real project. A good designer prefers to visualize his ideas rather than just list problems and their solutions in endless sheets of text.
If we talk about real projects and applying design critique results in practice, the conversion rate of the design is at the forefront. There are many tools, metrics, techniques, and tips for increasing conversion, but the foundation of it all is the balance/harmony in general and the effectiveness of individual design elements.
Attracting good third-party designers to review a design is common practice. There are many cases where it is super useful, here are some of them:
— The product has an awesome design but it is clear that a fresh, professional pair of eyes from the outside can be useful for reaching the best result.
— You are looking for ways to increase the conversion rate.
— You plan to redesign the product, so the Design Critique Improvement Report can be used as the basis of the design process.
— It seems that the current design is irrevocably obsolete.
— In the process of the company’s growth, the design turned into a scattered Frankenstein-like monster and ceased to be effective enough.
As I said, any design can be improved, both in terms of aesthetics and conversion rate. The only question is, how many company resources would be spent on a specific improvement? Design Critique will beat anyone in terms of efficiency.
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