Design has always been prevalent to the modern world. Sometimes good design fades into the background and you wouldn't even notice it if you hadn't been looking in the first place. Other times, the design serves a function in and of itself by being obvious, artistic, and in your face. There's a place and purpose for every degree of design, but there's also a growing dark side to the design industry.
All That Glitters is NOT Gold
Have you been on Dribble yet? I've spent my fair share of time browsing the nearly endless libraries of Dribble's "cream of the crop, invite only" artists. Many of them are, indeed, very skilled! You'll find print artists, gurus of 3D rendering, app aficionados, and web heads galore. Dribble (and many communities/mediums with the same system) have propagated design for design's sake. While this has created a staggering amount of interesting design, it has also diluted the functional design many members of the industry pride themselves on.
Many have addressed the "Dribble-Effect" before, and I wanted to take a deeper look at its implications and results as I'm embarking on a very large and interesting opportunity involving enterprise UI/UX and development.
Art for Art's Sake
I am always at odds with my own opinion on this topic, meaning its one I revisit frequently. On one hand, I greatly appreciate the extrapolation of almost ANY given thing (art, music, story, etc.) to either the pinnacle or the furthest fringes of itself, just to see what happens. The amazing masterpieces and thought provoking oddities that result are probably the coolest expressions of being human that I can think of. On the other hand, as both a user and professional, I crave systems and interfaces that are stripped down to their bare, functional bones in such a way that they are beautiful but also massively customizable. Function does not absolutely overwhelm form, but I'm always keenly aware of when something is lacking.
Most of this commentary is situational, much less from an incredibly singular point of view. Some software does wonderfully with just text interfaces. For reasons of accessibility, resources, or whatever-else, this could be the literal perfect solution. I've also seen sprawling intranet networks with all of three pages of textual content and a few thousand inspirational images, wallpapers, and chique-ly designed widgets.
Finding the middle ground of these two is, I believe, the end state of the vast majority of the internet as we know it. Public sites, corporate intranets, you name it. In the big picture, the goal of all of these is to provide functional utility for users to take action. Leveraging design to make those actions easier, more pleasurable, and just generally better is making the best of both worlds.
Function Augmented by Design
The big take-away here is that as far as real-world apps, websites, and software are concerned, everyone should be focused on not just getting dazzled by the latest trends in visual mockups.
Weather apps are a popular example of some really pretty designs with really modern aesthetics. You click on the app, and it takes just a second to load as it displays a hi-res Retina graphic of a weather scene, or a modern art background. The next screen welcomes you personally, and features an animation of a beautiful map zooming to your preset location and surrounding area. You then swipe once for the first text-based info. Each section of topical information is separated out to another, stylistically different side-swipe section.
Well now, that first experience was magical! I truly enjoyed all the high quality art, the attention to detail, and the overall package. The second time was pretty cool as I showed it to a coworker. The thirtieth time I checked it later that month as my wife wanted a quick weather update as we made plans, I was kind of impatiently swiping the map to zoom and animate just a bit faster. 6 months in, I've probably found another application. Either I legitimately got tired of waiting and found something more functional, or a new app on the block took just as long to use, but was even MORE cool and flashy and modern.
Design can make or break a product or service, just keep in mind that goes both ways. Too little or too much, both are bad for your prospects. Do you have any personal favorites (or horror stories) on the topic? Leave a comment or shoot me an email!