My take on design (in as few words as possible):
Not mere decoration.
Sure, design should be appealing. After all, design makes function and utility enjoyable.
Like the icing on your birthday cake, design sweetens the deal. Just be sure that, when you’re done, there’s actually a cake underneath. (Design is both cake and icing).
In other words…
Form follows function.
We all know this adage, but it’s easy to get our priorities mixed up.
Start with a pencil. Make sure you’ve got a sound idea first.
If you can isolate the function, the core idea, then you can play with many forms.
In other words…
Simplify, Amplify. / Less is more. / Reduce. Reduce. Reduce.
Break it all down. If you can reduce it, you’ll get to the “bones,” the core theme.
By simplifying things first, you won’t lose your way later when you flesh it out and dress it up. You’ll develop a subtractive mentality because you see clearly that less is more.
Remember, you’re the expert (and so is your client).
The first three points ensure you have a solid grasp on your project.
Now, without being arrogant, have confidence that you can and should guide your client.
Steer a client right when they’re going wrong. This shouldn’t feel like conflict. More like what I call “constructive pushback.” Smile when you do it. : )
There are at least three reasons why projects go off the rails:
1. Laziness. It’s easy to passively, unquestioningly “get the requirements,” writing things down like a non-thinking zombie. (Easy in the short run, that is.)
2. Cowardice. We’re afraid of confict.
But fear not! Reasonable people want an expert to guide them.
Be confident in the principles of design. Stand firm and provide guidance.
3. Failure to include your clients. More often than not, clients begin to feel the “control impulse” because we haven’t made them a part of the creative team. This is a paradox. If you establish an inclusive, collaborative vibe from the start, your clients will be reassured. They won’t be afraid of losing control. And so they won’t become controlling. Remember, design begins with research and understanding. If you partner with your client in getting to the heart of the matter, you’ll both be more confident and relaxed in the knowledge that you’ve nailed it from the start.