I am an Engineer, I don't Do Style
I engineer solutions to problems. I build things. By training, by aptitude, by inclination. I do the maths. I ensure bridges built do not fall in the river. Style is an alien word to me. I don't do colours. I engineer.
My First ClientI delivered a product to my first client. A tele-robotics upgrade. A robot and a fancy joystick. Great tele-presence robotics. For cutting up radioactive boxes. High end gear. Superb function and utility.
But the operators did not like it.
- "I have to think about it"
- "It is distracting"
- "Does not flow"
- "Gets in my way"
- "Too much funny business"
My first product ended in my bin. Client was annoyed. "It is about my operators and their task, not about your product".
Always Develop with StyleThat moment, I became a stylist. A product Stylist. Styling my products for ease of use. Where the operator retains his train of thought, his flow, his focus, his concentration, his attention. My product designs must be invisible to the user, while he works. This style ensures acceptance.
I learnt to design with a small "d"
Elements of Style - circa 1900
My first style lesson was - please write clearly
- Write to and for your audience
- Omit Needless Words
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should have no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unncecessary sentences. This requires that every word tell.
- Do not say more than is necessary; confine yourself to what the user needs, to understand what is happening
- To improve styling skills, practice, practice, practice
Product Style Pyramid
First rule of product style - please be useful
- First comes content and utility, of course,
- Style for readability and usability even when developing
- Remember the product's identity, narrative and iconography
- Finally, focus on the aesthetics to shape a personality, an affect, an emotion Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile– Chinese Proverb
Style basics have not changed in 100 years. The human eye and the hand are a constant. Style has evolved though, check Kathy Sierra's Cognitive Seduction.