My morning routine involves a repeatable, sequential order: take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, style my hair, and get in my car. The entire process takes 40-60 minutes, depending upon the cooperation of my daughter.
Seems like a normal morning, right? What you don’t see is design – something that’s 99% invisible as Roman Mars would say.
These seemingly unnoticed routines and progressions occur every day. And it’s we who are the conductors of our planning and experience. This is design. We all use design. And we all, at some point in our lives, are designers.
Let’s look back at my morning routine. There’s plenty of invisibility that makes the process successful.
- Selecting my clothes the night prior
- Setting my alarm for a specific time in the morning
- Having a towel nearby for my shower
- Prepping part of my breakfast the night prior
- Having my hairstyling products at an arm’s length
All of these tasks require design in order to succeed. Sure, it may seem like the invisible tasks would happen without thinking – or without design – but there’s a reason they make sense. They’re behaviors that folks have been improving, designing, and implementing for generations.
Mike Monteiro, the Design Director at Mule Design, points to the importance of the history of design in his talk from Webstock ’13 called “How Designers Destroyed the World.”
You are merely the present link in a chain that stretches back to the dawn of humanity and part of a network that spans the globe. And just like you learned from the mistakes of those in the past, you need to document and share your own successes and failures for the benefit of those coming after of you. Learn from those who came before and inspire those who came next.
The web, at the ripe old age of 25, doesn’t have the benefit of the “dawn of humanity.” Our current web design strategies, styles, and techniques change rapidly. But we’re getting better, day after day.
With every milestone in web design, our design processes and workflows become more and more ingrained in our day to day tasks. And over time, design strengthens until it’s inevitably invisible.
That’s the mark of great design – no mark at all.
Recommended reading: the folks at A List Apart are reliving some breakthroughs in web design as part of the 25-year celebration.
- Ten Years Ago in A List Apart: CSS Sprites – Image Slicing’s Kiss of Death by Jeffrey Zeldman
- CSS Design: Taming Lists by Mark Newhouse