Design is Not Adornment

Sometimes design (and designers) are thought of as the people that make stuff look pretty. While aesthetics is a part of design, it’s not its sole function.

Design is problem solving

When aesthetic considerations are placed above the problem or the design goal, user discomfort or dissatisfaction can occur.

Look at these images I took at a new local barbeque spot and notice the highlighted adornments.



Finding Colour Inspiration: Paint Sample Cards

When designing an app or website it can be hard to come up with inspiration for colour ideas. One place to look is the local hardware/DIY store.

These stores usually have colour sample cards from the different paint manufacturers that are sometimes helpfully grouped into related/complimenting shades.

This image shows some cards from my local hardware store showing some purple and pink hues.

Paint Sample Cards

While it’s a low tech approach, it’s cool to see a whole load of colours “in the flesh” when these cards are laid out on the display stands.


If you’d like to learn more about colour choice and other design related topics such as Typography, check out my Pluralsight Introduction to Design course.


Design Principals in Practice: Desire Lines

A Desire Line (or Desire Path) is the shortest or easiest way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

In the physical world we can see these in parks or grassed areas as paths worn away by people’s feet.

Take this photo:

desire line in grassed area

This was taken not long after the opening of a new building. The photo shows part of an entrance area to an office building and mall entrance.



Design Principals in Practice: Affordance in Contactless Payment Machines

Take a look at this photo I took of a contactless style of payment terminal at a local grocery store. This is the kind of terminal that, with a compatible credit/debit card you can just tap, hover, or wave you card in front of the machine rather than inserting and keying in a pin number.

Notice the extra handwritten instruction taped to it: “HOLD CARD BELOW”.

Contactless payment machine photograph

The fact that the staff of the store had to modify the machine in this way gives us a clue that there may be a problem with the design. It suggests that some customers were holding their cards in the wrong place, perhaps at the top of the machine, and thus not initiating a payment.

We can see that the only perceived affordance of where to hold your card is the little diagram in the middle.

Whilst I’m not a hardware designer (and without perhaps performing some usability studies) I thought it would still be fun to mock-up some changes.



Colour: Thinking in Proportions (Dominant, Subdominant, and Accent)

One way of thinking or planning colour is to think in terms of relative expansiveness, that is, the proportion of the use of different colours.

One way to describe this proportionality is to think in 3 groups:

  • The Dominant Colour: proportionally the largest expanse of colour, e.g. the ground
  • The Subdominant (or subordinate) Colour : the second largest expanse of colour after the dominant
  • The Accent Colour: the colour with the smallest relative area

This doesn’t mean that we can only ever use just three colours, but it’s a nice conceptual model. We could, for example, have a single dominant colour and a single accent colour; but we might have 3 shades of a subdominant to create a greater range of visual possibilities.

A simple way to visualise this is to use a subdivided coloured square.



Design Principals in Practice: Proximity in Peregrine

The Gestalt Principals help us to understand human perception. The application of these principals can help us create better user interfaces and improve the overall user experience.

The Problem

Peregrine is a great free Twitter client for Windows Phone, although I love Rowi as well the last time I changed my Windows Phone handset I decided to give Peregrine a go and haven’t looked back.

I was using it this morning and noticed someone had mentioned that they were watching my new Pluralsight course. It also looked like this was a retweet.

Look at this screenshot:

Original Peregrine cropped screenshot

I thought the Tweet that I was mentioned in was a retweet from tomwarren.

It’s not; the retweet indicator belongs to the tweet below: “Just updated YouTube…”.

So what are some of the ways we can solve this design problem?



An Introduction to Design Course

My newest Pluralsight course has just been released.

It’s about learning the fundamentals of design and applying them to your own work.

It covers topics such as: typography, colour meaning and choice, fundamental Gestalt Principles, and some other important and useful principles.

From the description:

“Design is all around us but most of us don't notice it. By the end of this course you'll start to notice design elements in everyday life. By understanding the fundamentals of design, you can start to apply them to your software UI & UX, marketing materials, emails, web design and pretty much anything else you produce.”

You can check it out here.


Theming and Styling Your Windows Store App the Easy Way

This article shows one way of choosing and using a colour scheme in your Windows Store app.

The default style looks like this:


Step 1 – Choose a Colour Palette

We can use our fave colours or use a tool such as Adobe Kuler to help us come up with a scheme.

The screen shot below shows a Kuler theme “kathy 1” and it’s RGB values.


Our styled app will contain these colours.



A Windows 8 App - From Idea to Store in 8 Hours

I had an idea for a simple Windows Store app, so I thought I’d develop it but keep track of how long it took me and what I spent my time on.

The total time spent working on the app was 8 hours and 10 minutes, this included: sketching ideas and feature possibilities, developing the app, creating icons and promo images, and submitting to the Windows Store.



Designing Windows 8 Apps Course

It is with much excitement that my first ever Pluralsight course on Designing Windows 8 apps has just been released.

The course leads you through the process of capturing and evaluating ideas, choosing and prioritising app features,  and onwards into actually designing the navigation experience, user interface, and integrating your app into Windows 8.

You can check it out now, if you don’t already have a Pluralsight subscription you can check out my course for free by signing up for the free trial!