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Clever Designing

It's become almost a design cliché to talk about making things that are useful, usable, and desirable. Indeed, if I hear those three words together in a phrase once more, I might scream. There has to be other adjectives, perhaps sub-adjectives of usef--ah, I almost did it!--that can describe the types of designs that we strive to make. And maybe even describe the type of designer we want to be.

I stumbled onto one of these adjectives a few months ago. The word: clever. I don't take credit for affiliating the adjective with design. That goes to Scott Henderson, former Director of Industrial Design at Smart Design, now one of the principals at Mint. A while back, he gave a talk about his design philosophy at a Design Unplugged evening in Manhattan. In it, he said that

A successful design not only shows the bright wit of its creator but is smart itself, instantly nimble and dexterous in its functionality.

That is, not only is the product clever, but so is its creator. I really like the word clever. It implies intelligence without smugness or condescension. It suggests humor and slyness without being obnoxious. And it also implies another of my favorite design words: delight. Using something clever, especially the first time, leads to moments of delight when you discover how clever, how thoughtful, it is. And delight is one of the most sublime emotions that one can experience, leading to long-lasting good feelings about something.

Thus, I think we should add cleverness to the pantheon of concepts to strive for and design for. It would be clever to do so.

Originally posted at Thursday, February 17, 2005 | Comments (2) | Trackback (0)

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