Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Love of Detail

Dorado Centerpiece

Design is a bit like a coin;  it has two sides which compliment each other, but are very different all the same.  On one side is beautiful sketches, rich colors and materials, crisp photographs (that you can practically eat), and world class graphics, my first love.  On the other side is the realization that design represents only about 10% of the designers time (if that), and the rest is a litany of details fit only for an accountant.  Alas, these details cannot be handled by an accountant;  they are creative details which can only be sorted out by a combination of relentless determination and creative focus.  To be a good designer you have to love the mediums you are working in whether it’s pencils, paints, clay, paper, or computer; but to be a great designer you must be in love with the details; all of them.  Admittedly, I must remind myself about this, because lets face it,  no one in the design profession really wants to be an accountant, relegated to the nitty gritty of getting to the “right” finish on a piece of iron, which someone is working on a thousand miles away, or changing raw materials because the cost is coming in too high and the item won’t sell.  
This balance between the sides(of the coin) is exactly what makes a good product a great product.  The aesthetics can be rich, unique, and never before seen by man (or woman), but if the production or financial details are not in sync then none of this will matter.  Can the factory produce this ceramic glaze ; which you love, consistently (often they can’t),  and have found buried on a shelf behind something else?  It might be on that bottom shelf for a reason.  Is there a value story of any kind?  All customers like a value whether they are small or large; and no matter how beautiful or useful a product may be, the customer will walk away if the price is not right.  We (designers) must remind ourselves from time to time that this is after all a commercial endeavor; and we are not designing for ourselves.
So, while we must always see the coin as a whole; we need to remember that it is a two-sided object; each side composed of various critical details.  One side is playful, charming, and witty; while the other side is somber, and boring,  with no sense of humor.  While our job as designers is to come up with something new and exciting;  if we do not keep an eye toward the other side of the equation then it will just be another wonderful, possible, maybe something that could have just perhaps been great, but instead falls into the great pocket of loose change located on a bottom shelf behind something else.