Simple design is timeless. This means it is not usually fashionable.
Good design is long-lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.
We like the use of primary shapes and primary colors because their formal values are timeless … We like economy of design because it avoids wasteful exercises, it respects investment and lasts longer. We strive for a design that is centered on the message rather than visual titillation. We like design that is clear, simple, and enduring. And that is what timelessness means in design.
Most designers, most of the time, should avoid fashion and focus on what will last.
Aesthetics are fleeting, the only things with longevity are ideas.
This isn’t for the sake of a principle. There is a commercial benefit.
So, if you're trying to strategize on what's going to be trendy in business and software next year, I wouldn't worry about “simple”. It might not be as buzzy today as it was yesterday, but it's always in.
And a practical benefit for designers.
Keeping up with what's hot is an exhausting zero sum game. I tried keeping up with the hot trends for a while, and it never worked out so well. I wasn't very good at doing trendy design, because it was all about someone else's style, not my own. What's worse, even if you are on trend, the best you can do is hang on for a fleeting moment until the trendsetters move on to the next thing. As Jonas Downey says, it's exhausting.
As well as technical benefits.
So whether you use a framework as part of your design process or not, when it's time to go public, nothing will ever beat lean, hand-coded HTML and CSS. That's a truth that hasn't changed in 20 years, and probably won't change in our lifetimes.
The problem with fashion is that it outstays its welcome.
Delightful details give you an opportunity to express your brand's voice. They give life to your product. But if you're not careful, delightful details can get in the way ... too many delightful details can just get annoying. They slow people down from doing what they need to do. Delightful details lose their charm over time. Delight has a shelf life, and even the most delightful details can start feeling stale after a while. To keep things fresh, you'll probably have to redesign the same things over and over again.
Other websites avoid all of this with simple design.
The Drudge Report ... has proven timeless. Its generic list of links, black and white monospaced font, and ALL CAPS headlines have survived every trend, every fad, every movement, every era, every design do or don't ... When you visit The Drudge Report, you get the Drudge report. There are no interstitial ads. There's no load time. There's no buffering. There's nothing but instant content. The Drudge Report is Google-fast and Craigslist fast — quite a feat for a site that does 3,000,000 uniques a month run by one guy ... The design of the Drudge Report doesn't require a fancy CMS or, in fact, any CMS at all. It's edited by hand.
Timeless design is not difficult. In fact it allows you to be lazy. You cannot say the same about fashion.
Some might say that this blog's design has some “timeless” qualities. I will let you in on a secret: I am lazy. I want to make as few decisions as possible, but I want those choices to be good ones. I don't add cruft, because I'd have to make the cruft so that I could add it. And then I'd have to decide where it would go
Next chapter →
← Previous chapter
Back to the table of contents