What is a good design

A good design is not only of high aesthetic value,but also follows some fundamental design principles,which help people interact well with the object.

A good design always has a good’conceptual model,an explanation,usually high simplified,of how something works'(Norman,2013:25).It helps people understand how the design works and how to handle it when things go wrong(Norman,2013:28).For example,when we are typing on a computer,we can just see some words on the screen rather that some complicated codes,which actually work inside the computer.The computer designer provides us with a good conceptual model,which is easy to understand and to interact with the machine.Some proper ‘signifiers’are also  essential,which signal where to interact with the object(Norman,2013:14),such as an arrow icon on a phone,which tell people that it is able to slide.A correct ‘ mapping’ is also significant to a good design,especially a complicated design,such as dash board with lots of buttons.You may have encountered such a situation.There were three rows of light in a room but only two switches and you could only  turn on the right row you wanted by chance.This is a bad but not so annoying mapping,which can not communicate’ the relationship between the elements of two sets of things’ well(Norman,2013:20).The last element of a good design is some effective and appropriate ‘feedbacks'(Norman,2013:23),which are helpful for people to learn how to mange things after knowing the consequence.For instance,when a download finishes,the progress bar will stop and there will be a sound to inform you that the task has been completed and you can enjoy the movie now.However,too much feedbacks might be annoying and confusing in some cases,such as instantly noisy beeping after using a machine in a wrong way.

Overall,a good design should be easy to understand and interact with.After all, we human beings use these objects,not the machines.


Norman, D.A. (2013) The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. New York: Basic Books.
Posted in CTS.

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