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What’s the Difference Between Good Looking and Good Design?

image from The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Good looking, not so good design, image from The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

What’s the difference between good looking and good design? Knowing the answer to that question should help you find the right designer for any project. You’re on the internet all day – or at least more than you want to be. There are a lot of beautiful sites out there, some are more effective than others, its hard to know why when they both look great. So, what’s the difference?

Assuming they were both up to date and connectivity isn’t an issue – the likely difference is what separates good looking from good design. A good looking piece is just that, good looking. A piece created with the aesthetics in mind, but nothing further. A good looking piece does not necessarily have any connection to it’s content, but a well designed piece will. Good design will have a deep and intentional connection with it’s content, is intuitive to use, and successfully serves a goal. A good rule of thumb is to consider what your piece is communicating to someone that is unable to read the language. What is your imagery, design, and layout telling your audience? The same is true for all design – logos, brochures or products.

A good example is the current trend in WordPress themes sporting big, blurry photos standing watch behind a vintage-influenced logo adorned with arrows or some graphic nod to your status as a lumberjack. These are wonderful, you can buy one, plug in your content, and be ready to roll…..if you’re an artisanal-cocktail brand or a restaurant named after an adjective. But if you’re a lawyer, a therapist, or selling a line of kids pajamas that may not be your best move. A good designer understands your goals and helps you achieve them.

So – what is a designer’s job?

Such good design – Take Breath Tea Pot by Pinyen Creative

#1 Asks you the right questions.
  • •  What are the goals of the project?
  • •  What separates you from your audience?
  • •  Who are your competitors?
#2 Listens to your answers,

hears you and makes your goals a priority. If you’re in talks with a designer and you’re wondering if they get you, it may not be the right fit. You should feel welcome, not intimidated.

#3 Researches and analyzes your unique position

keeping in mind the perspective of your audience – speaking a language they understand is crucial.

#4 Create a good great looking website or widget that converts

– meaning meets your business goals, whether its getting folks to sign up for your newsletter, driving sales, or sharing your news with their network.

Good design is intuitive, easy to use, serves the goals of the business and has the flexibility to grow. You know good looking when you see it, and you know good design when you use it.

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