Designers, stop belittling someone else’s design

Adjusting Redesign Assumptions for Known Products.

If you’re a designer, you’ve probably seen someone else’s redesign concept, or you’ve redesigned an app you like yourself. You felt you could make improvements in some areas. So you redesigned it.

Redesigning the interface and logos is a great way to improve your skill. We can learn a lot from interface reverse engineering by looking for new features or simplifying workflows. Parsing and modifying logos gives us a deeper insight into the nuances of a successful sign. Conceptual redesigns are good!

There is often a problem with how a designer defines the context of their redesign. I often hear statements such as “Current interface is ugly”, “This is lazy design” or “What were the designers thinking about?” etc. So what were these designers thinking? We claim to be “ugly” or “lazy” without any knowledge of business goals, technical or budget constraints, accessibility standards, and a host of other factors. There is an opaque layer between what we see and the decisions underlying what we see.

Icons, logos and trademarks

I recently saw a redesign of the Google app icon for iOS. The designer didn’t like the white padding around the icon in the application container. He called it “lazy” design. Aside from the fact that Google adheres strictly to design and system standards.

If you take the time to check all of the Google icons in this product family, you will find that white padding is integral to the identity of their iOS icons. So is this lazy or consistent design?

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You may not like white padding, and that’s perfectly fine.! But to call it lazy design is to ignore research done by Google to test the optimal visual comfort and recognizability of their icons. Unless you work on their design team, you don’t know what Google considers important. What does success look like to Google when they create an icon? Is this sequence? Is it personality? Color, symbols, cultural sensitivity, Material Design commitment? How about all of the above. Google is a company that tested over 40 shades of blue for their logo. Let’s show some respect before we call them lazy.

OK, maybe it’s not lazy, but I still hate their icon!

There is a lot of value in updating products and logos. It forces us to think creatively. Rephrasing what you dislike can be helpful in providing feedback. Lazy design might actually be a euphemism for “I can’t figure out what the symbol on the icon should be, and the indentation makes the symbol even smaller, which exacerbates my problem.” Yes! We now have effective ad hominem free feedback. And remember that the act of redesigning something involves disliking something, so it almost goes without saying!

Like button

Facebook had the best part of the year and the entire team was dedicated to just the Like button. Just imagine it! Now imagine some designer redesigning the Like button and saying, “The Facebook Like button is so ugly! So I remade it. ” But if you watch a TED talk about redesigning the Like button, you will understand the purpose of the redesign. Facebook had to make the button simple and recognizable enough to cover all kinds of cultures and people around the world. This is why it is naive to demean a product or logo when we do not know what was done for it, what symbolism, inclusiveness, or goals contributed to the decisions leading to the final product.

User interfaces combine U (users) & I (interface)!

Go to Dribbble and search for “redesign” and you will find some beautiful interfaces! What you won’t see (in most cases) is an explanation of why the designer made these changes. This is not always a designer’s fault, though, as Dribbble is not ideal for full-fledged case studies (yet).

Now, imagine you are showing your redesign to a prospective employer. He might ask, how does the interface account for a large and scalable design system? He might say that you should add 6 content functions to the viewport of the smallest iPhone. Now your friendly fields are creating a problem! The light gray color used for timestamping doesn’t meet accessibility standards, oh, and neither does cyan. Now the question is in your color palette! Gradually, what was once perceived as lazy design becomes intentional design, the reasons for which you did not know about.

Remember your budget

Sometimes you may come across an application or interface that clearly needs polishing, UX rework, and animation. But you don’t know what the budget and technical stack are behind the application. Maybe this is one single developer who cannot afford a designer. Perhaps he decided to use React Native and realized that he could launch MVP and do the visual part in the second phase. Remember, not every app has millions of dollars and dozens of teams supporting them.

Even designs from big companies are not perfect

Do designers always design right? Not! Feedback and iterative design are critical to improving the products you support. I hope to see more constructive feedback and critical thinking in the redesign community in the design community.

Design without limits

Being creative without holding yourself back is also important. This helps us introduce new visual ideas and solutions to problems. I would be a deceitful hypocrite if I said I have full case studies backing up every design decision I make. Often times I design, look at the screen and think, “Yes … it looks right” without data or detailed explanations for each pixel. That’s okay too! Let’s just be kinder as we research and analyze other people’s work.

Author: Clark Douglas

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