When it comes to design, from fashion to graphic design that snags our attention, most people have their opinions. But how do we know if a piece of design is good or bad? What are the metrics? Today, we’re going to be talking about three principles to help you understand the visual world around you. Then, we’re going to take a look at three different brands that knock each principle out of the park.
Here are three key design principles:
Do you have anything in your closet that was passed down from your parents, maybe even your grandparents? Maybe it’s a jacket that your Granddad wore, with the elbows a little worn, but soft, cozy, and warm on the inside. That’s the mark of real quality in design.
As a design principle, quality is the measure of durability and function. Does it do its job really well and for a really long time? Then the quality is high. The downside of quality products is that they tend to be more expensive. The upside is that they also tend to last longer, so they could become a good investment purchase.
This principle is very important in product and web design. When a piece of design is made to be interacted with by people (or maybe animals!) how easy it is to use is the measure of useability. A well-designed website that loads quickly and gives you all the information you want has great useability.
Part of Stojo’s useability is the convenience of our products collapsing, so you can take them with you on the go. One question product designers have to think about is: is this something people are actually going to use, and use easily?
We all like pretty things! That’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, our brains are hard wired that way. When we look at something (or someone) attractive, our brain releases the pleasure-causing chemical dopamine. So an obvious part of design is to make things look good.
Aesthetic measures are also the most subjective. For useability and quality tests, the scientific method can be applied. You can run tests on cars, or have people test your app. Looks are a different ball game, because most people have preferences on colors or even patterns that they prefer.
Now that we’ve gone over these basics, it’s time for some examples! In some ways, all of these brands could be used as an example of any of the principles, which is what makes them such good benchmarks for great design.
Patagonia | Quality
Over the years, Patagonia’s fleeces have made them an iconic brand, one that can be found in high prevalence in the mountains as well as the jungle of Midtown.
Of course, aesthetics play a part. Thoughtful, simple designs make Patagonia quite easy on the eyes. Their fleeces, even the funky, retro designs, have stood the test of time. But it’s in the quality of their products that Patagonia really shines; not just in how they stand up to the tests of nature, but in their materials and supply chain. The brand focuses on making products out of sustainable and sometimes recycled materials and use ethical business practices from beginning to end.
Patagonia is a brand that really cares about the impact they make on the world, and that is one of the highest bars of quality there is.
Image courtesy of the Weather Channel
The Weather Channel | Useability
Wait, the Weather Channel? Yes, seriously, something as mundane-sounding as the Weather Channel is actually doing amazing, innovative work! The basic function of a weather app is to tell you, well, what the weather’s like. The Weather Channel performs that basic function well, with an easy to use app and admirable accuracy. It’s when severe weather hits that the Weather Channel shines.
Using innovative AR technology, the Weather Channel has been creating new ways to visually show the impact of severe weather on their TV broadcasts. The network has had its broadcasters stand next to virtual 6ft storm surges, tornados, and simulated their own studio being destroyed by an earthquake.
What makes the Weather Channel such a good example of useability in design is how effective it is at communicating weather conditions, especially severe ones. As people are able to better visually see, and almost feel, the impact of the weather, they’re more likely to take the situation seriously.
As a side note, the weather app category has incredible depth when it comes to good design, showing that amazing quality can come from unexpected places. For an app doing groundbreaking work in local weather, check out Dark Sky (for IOS and desktop only, sadly).
Oatly | Aesthetics
Milk products (dairy or otherwise) is a pretty crowded category, but Oatly stands out with their (dare we say it?) quirky aesthetic. Oatly uses a scrapbook aesthetic that connects with the brand’s identity as a sustainable, plant-based milk alternative.
The branding was done by global creative house Forsman and Bodenfors (if you didn’t know, Oatly is a Sweidsh brand), and they have a very nice case study of the impact the new branding had on the company.
Their approach to the aesthetics of their packaging is also unique, in that they put words on the container you actually enjoy reading—seriously, reading an Oatly carton is a fun little activity to do while your coffee is brewing.
Oatly loves to say they’re “milk, but made for humans” so it makes perfect sense for their design to also be human-focused.