The first invisible design hides in plain sight. It is as transparent as a window, allowing the meaning to shine through. When properly executed, it never draws attention to itself. It is functional, disposable, a utility that you only notice when it fails. Obvious in hindsight, but maddening to the practitioner striving to achieve this perfection.
The second invisible design can't be seen because the onlooker doesn't believe. He might feel a vague sense of quality, some uncertain arrangement that carries a whiff of the artistic crowd. It reminds him of people that, despite his sincere attempts, he can't understand. Designers speak a different language, measure things with some foreign scale. If he accepts it at all it is with resignation, with a skeptical acknowledgement that if it really exists he may never understand its mystery.
The third invisible design isn't seen because it died on the vine. Perhaps a novel design fails to pass the scrutiny of a committee. Perhaps it never shipped because a timid stakeholder preferred the safety of pre-trodden paths. This is the wind tunnel that grinds our best work into oatmeal. It is invisible to all but the few who saw it on screen before it was rejected.
And so this is our job as designers:
We labor for frictionless experiences, concentrate on removing anything that distracts from the purpose of our work.
We evangelize to non-believers, preach the virtues of our craft, hoping to convert those who don't believe in what they cannot see.
And we carry on when our best work is stillborn, too fragile to survive outside the womb of our studios.
Thanks for reading my words in 2017. Stay creative.
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The Designer’s Invisible Skill Set
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