Good design can be hard to notice. Not because it’s so beautiful or creative, but because of how well it makes things work. A well-designed product is ideally beautiful and creative, but the true design comes from the function of it.
In an article in the New York Times 20 years ago, just after the release of the first iPod, Steve Jobs put it this way:
”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. ”People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
The iPod was indeed a great example of that. It was a slick and good-looking device, but the function of it was far beyond any other MP3 players of the time — and it wasn’t even close.
Apple has done this as well as any company in history, but it’s worth remembering for our own work. Make it beautiful, make it creative, but make sure it works as smoothly as it possibly can.