Designing as little as possible

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Digital design is a broad discipline which crosses a range of skills and UI design draws much influence from a repeating patterns / learned behaviour approach. In the last year this has been dominated by the styles of the most popular mobile device companies, namely Apple with iOS8 and Google’s Material design. These comprehensive guidelines have, depending on your point of view, helped to raise the quality threshold for all UI design or started the decline of the importance of a professional designer’s role.

When designing a new UI, regardless of its use or format, my goal is (usually) to design as little as possible. By that I mean I will always aim to reuse existing design elements before creating new ones. Its not just that a simpler design with fewer different, fonts, colours, button treatments and so on, invariably looks tighter and cleaner, but that it also reduces development time, page load, app size, styleguide length. To me its the difference between a beautiful visual design and a professional product.

So it would follow that it’s preferable to do less design work; why create a new design for a form when you’ve already got one? Or the platform provides it’s own?

There’s a fine line to tread between designing less and not designing at all. I am wary of the native by default approach, that Material design is best because Google are a massive company and so must have considered every conceivable pattern and tested it to extremis. That’s just not the way software gets shipped. There’s also my own design ego to appease, I will never, no matter how often the UXers assure me its ok, be happy with dropping Font Awesome icons into a design, or copy and pasting from the Noun Project.

On the other hand, I would rather design fast and get something in peoples hands, users, clients, whoever, than spend a week closeted away perfecting gradient overlays in Photoshop. You must be proud and love your work and never settle for “just good enough”, but most of the time you’re not designing for yourself, and time and budget rarely allow the luxury of design indulgence.

Again that’s not how the real world works. Business demands efficiency and a designer must be prepared to smooth their processes, so set aside the ego and design less.