We human beings have come a long way. We started using tools more than 2.5 million years ago, and we’ve spent the time since improving and innovating on all different fronts. Mechanical and technological feats have never been more impressive, and they’re sure to get even more impressive in the future. But something else is happening, too: The work is getting more beautiful.
Mankind has been making works of art for a long time, of course. But those of us lucky enough to live in the modern world are seeing more and more consumer products and tools that look beautiful and work seamlessly within the fabric of our lives. Tech innovators know the truth: Design matters.
Design isn’t just about making products look pretty. In fact, experts say, the beauty of a great design most often has its roots in the practical and functional. A good design should be aesthetically pleasing, of course, but it should also make a product easier (and perhaps even more enjoyable) to use.
How people use products, consumer preferences, and the goals of products themselves are all vital things to consider in design, explain mechanical design experts.
How it’s made versus how it’s used
Here’s a technological problem you might have: Your expensive smartphone is not getting a good wireless network signal in your own home. What can you do? Well, you could invest in a signal booster that works with your wireless provider. That’s the suggestion of the pros behind one popular AT&T signal booster.
Every phone has an antenna built into it. But beefing up that antenna would lead to clumsy design choices (you’d likely be talking about an accessory that attaches to the phone itself and must be carried around everywhere). So the preferred option for such companies was to build a separate, external device with its own antenna. This device amplifies the weak cell signal and, presto, the smartphone’s small antenna is now enough to pick up that signal — no on-device accessories required.
This is an aspect of design. Without even knowing what a signal booster looks like, we can see that it has made some smart design choices that make it more practical and simpler for the end user.
Easy on the eyes and easy in the hands
The actual look of a device is often also rooted in user experience choices. Take Apple products, for example. Apple is famous for kicking off a minimalist design revolution in tech, but that revolution was not strictly about making cool-looking products (though most of what Apple makes certainly does look cool). The earliest iPod devices were minimalist because that made the user experience easier and better. No longer did consumers have to expect tech devices to come with controls complicated enough for a spaceship! For proof that Apple cares about user experiences, just look at its Mac Pro reboot: The most recent reboot backs off of the small and minimalist prior-generation device, because users didn’t like it. If it doesn’t improve the user experience, then it’s not good design — no matter how cool it looks!
Some aspects of design are a matter of personal preference, of course. But from ergonomic grips to minimalist controls, the best design choices are rooted in functionality. Design is about uniting form and function, and nowhere is that more clear than in the world of tech. The next time you purchase or use a tech device, take a closer look at it. You just might find something in the design to appreciate.