Poll: Can a design be “correct”?

Ben Moss.
April 29, 2016
Poll: Can a design be “correct”?.

Design is about problem solving, whether that be visual, structural, conceptual, or any other ‘…al’. If there’s a problem, it follows that there is a solution.

When Steve Jobs hired design legend Paul Rand to design the brand identity for what would be named (by Rand) NeXT computers, he was expecting a few options. Instead, Rand delivered a highly detailed explanation of a single solution. Famously, according to Jobs, Rand said:

“I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me”

However, Rand followed that by saying: “If you want options go talk to other people.” Acknowledging that although Rand had delivered his “correct” answer, it wasn’t necessarily the correct answer.

Rand didn’t have the same access to user testing that we enjoy. The principle of A/B testing tells us that different solutions can be measured against one another, provided we have a definite goal. The practicality of A/B testing is questionable, but in laboratory conditions, we are able to prove that one solution outperforms another; test enough solutions and you will eventually find the “correct” answer.

However, design doesn’t exist in a laboratory, it reflects its context. Subjective viewpoints of different users may mean that the “correct” design for one, is “incorrect” for another. Even more than different users, different stakeholders commonly have different motivations, meaning that not only the context of the design, but the problem its designed to solve is frequently changing.

If a design brief is a problem, can it have a “correct” solution?

Ben Moss

Ben Moss has designed and coded work for award-winning startups, and global names including IBM, UBS, and the FBI. When he’s not in front of a screen he’s probably out trail-running.

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