Nearly everyone likes to be liked. And as designers we can sometimes exist in a vacuum where we are trying to impress each other more with our work, than actually doing what is required of us. Aesthetic design is great and obviously is easy to digest and hit that like button for. I’m not completely ragging on this either, because if this is what you use as a vehicle to promote yourself then great. But be aware that if you create things to purely look cool or neat without actually solving anything then it is art more than it is design. It’s popularity alone doesn’t mean it’s great design. It’s just easy for others to digest and appreciate it on a more superficial level.
But what defines great design? To me it is the balance of form, function and objectives. Objectives of both the user and the client. And also what you hope to achieve with the project, to personally believe whole heartedly that it is both beautiful and functional. I love using the adapted version of Maslows Hierarchy of needs for design. For it to be great design you need to build up from each pillar - from the foundation to apex. If a site is full of creativity but is not reliable ie. crashes all the time, is not consistent or doesn't serve it's purpose but only impresses your design friends. I'm sorry but you've failed. So see if you can identify how this relates to your work and the work that you admire.
Great design doesn’t have to draw attention to itself, it can be invisible or not even thought of as design at all. I once got asked what my favourite website was during a job interview. And they were probably expecting me to say something with the nicest typography, coolest animations, sick storytelling and the latest cube rotating effect in the browser. Nope. I said ‘google.com’. You’re probably thinking what the hell the type sucks and how is that even a site. But it does everything that I need and more. Think about how it has gotten progressively better and continually evolved. Think about it’s application and how non designers and the general population use it “without even thinking” about it.
Our goal is simple objects, objects that you can’t imagine any other way.
You think to yourself of course it's like that, it just ‘works’. And theres a purity in that. It’s almost invisible. Whether that’s habitual learning or great design is debatable. But as a user I have a problem. I have a question that needs to be answered. I go to the site and I type into the singular input box. Less than 1 sec later I get my answer. Speed, efficiency and finesse. I go to my search as the Olympics is on and the logo of google is a sweet little mini game that I can play using my phone via web sockets. Next thing you know 4 people are next to me and we’re watching these beautifully illustrated sprinters run as we vigilantly tap our phones to increase their speed. There is aesthetic beauty and creativity in that, and an emotional joy that I get from that experience. It’s utilitarian and whimsical at the same time. And it’s ever evolving, it used to take 30 secs to do a search and now it’s instant. You can already tell it what you want now with just your voice and soon it will just know what you want. Remove the barrier and interface itself. And you’ve hit the purist balance of form, function and objectives. You don’t see google.com on any design award sites or award shows. But progressively I’ve noticed. And to top off the irony I’ll use this quote “It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” by Steve jobs to applaud a google product. So a pat on the back from me google. That's some great design.