in Philosophy

Balanced design

In the past I’ve said that design is a conversation, a dialog that should be enjoyable for all parties. Last night at the NYC IA Salon we discussed a similar idea, where the designer creates something that either benefits the client, the customer, or both.

For example, Bella mentioned how some desks at the U.S. Library of Congress are slanted, with glass over the wood and no ledge at the bottom. This keeps anything harmful from being placed or spilled on the wood. It also keeps books from staying on the desks. James calls this slanty, design that purposefully reduces functionality. An even-handed solution would have protected the wood and provided an enjoyable surface to work on.

Statements of design goals like usable, useful, and desirable only describe the user’s experience. Return on investment only describes the business benefits. Design is a conversation that should benefit all parties. If a slanty design only benefits one party, then a balanced design benefits all parties.

Of course, people will have different understandings of what is balanced. But having a term makes it easier to discuss where the balance lies. ‘Well Bob, this design isn’t as slanty as before, but it’s still unbalanced. How about a revised handle that fits the hand better but is still inexpensive to assemble because it’s all one piece?