We live in an age of ever-advancing technology and an undeniable progression toward automation propelling us into an uncertain future. The role of design, and that of the designer, has been consistently changing in this dynamic landscape, for better or for worse. Teams of skilled experts in their fields have been replaced with easy-to-use apps, and with the rise of artificial intelligence this trend will undoubtedly continue. This calls into question the definition of design, the role of the designer, and the value of a “good design.” No matter who or what is doing the designing, the question stands: what makes a design good?
Good design considers people and their experience.
In 1972, Massimo Vignelli unveiled a new design for the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) subway system. The design has become an icon for New York City and for good design in general. By using a system of minimal, universal design elements, the NY subway became a beautiful human-centered machine that not only values people as a necessary part of something larger, but also their experiences as individuals effortlessly navigating a complex system of paths.
Good design gives people dignity.
People are impacted by their relationships with design, good or bad. When any person is hindered, inconvenienced, or challenged by a design it can influence perceptions of self-worth. Older buildings may lack wheelchair access for example, a poor design that handicaps people with disabilities rather than includes them. We should ask ourselves: do we feel valued by a society that doesn’t consider us or acknowledge that we exist? This is the power of universal accessibility in design. At 3FO we prioritize accessibility in design, not as a requirement but as a standard–– not to fulfill a quota, but to embrace the philosophy of universal design as a fundamental characteristic of good design.
Good design gives people hope.
Artists, philosophers, visionaries, authors and the like have always looked to the future for inspiration. Gene Roddenberry envisioned a world beyond “hunger, want, and the need for possessions” in his famous Star Trek franchise. The possibilities of a better future are always good fuel for design, and good design is a necessary step towards realizing those possibilities. Every new design should aim to propel us forward and give us optimism for future times. A good design has the power to turn ordinary people into visionaries, and to start realizing for themselves that a better world, one that values people first, is possible.
These are just a few ways that good design values people. No matter how much technology advances, or threatens to change the industry, the end goal should always remain the same: good design should always put people and the needs of people first. And as long as it does, then people will in return value good design.