As designers we often struggle to find that specific and unique style that would differentiate us from all the other creators out there. As Chris Do points out, truth is that the world is full of undifferentiated makers. Instead of your style or work, the way you think is what makes you unique.¹
In the following I want to share and inspire you with my design philosophy that also benefits the design process. Moreover I explain its relation to user experience design and how defining your design philosophy also means laying the foundation of your personal brand.
We have all heard of ‘form follows function’. However since Horatio Greenough first formulated this term in 1952 obviously a lot has changed.² Nowadays the emotional experience is one of the biggest factors in the success of a product.
Nevertheless the function or purpose is still essential for the design process as well as the user experience of a product. Therefore it is important to define the core purpose of the product right at the beginning. During the course of the design process it is easy to lose track and forget about this very purpose you originally set. So step back here and then and keep reminding yourself about the main objective.
There are many great minds that have pointed out the importance of ‘simplified’ design. As does Dieter Rams who states that good design should make a product understandable and ultimately be as little design as possible.³ Therefore a simple design fulfils two purposes:
- The reduction of elements, functions and content
- The enhancement of intelligibility
Both of these aspects are interdependent. A product can be reduced to its bare minimum but won’t be easy to understand for the user as a product can be very intelligible but far from being reduced. Neither of those products would have counted as simple.
So as in life, it comes down to the right balance. Adjust both aspects individually based on the product and overall goal. Keep testing your designs until you get the relation just right.
Keeping the user engaged in a product is one of the most difficult and yet most important challenges. Especially when designing for millennials that are hard to impress⁴ and known for their short attention span⁵. Implementing elements of fun in your design creates a new incentive. Gamification is probably the first concept that comes to mind.
However it is the Playful Design that I want to point out. This approach focuses on the playful behaviour and accompanied state of mind of the user.⁶ Therefore it offers a wide variety of possibilities. Moreover the playful aspect can be measured which we all know is essential for an iterative process. Designing for playfulness can be as simple as adding quirky micro-interactions to a mobile app. Give it a try and see the positive impact on the user experience.
Simple, Fun and Functional in UX Design
Generally speaking user experience is divided into the hedonic and pragmatic quality. The latter describes the usability aspect of a product. Therefore it is defined by clarity, efficiency and reliability whereas the hedonic quality describes the emotional impression of a product. This quality includes the stimulation and identity.
The three design principles simple, fun and functional can be allocated to these two qualities. The following illustration visualises their relation and weighting in regards to the user experience.
As previously mentioned the functionality is an essential part of the design process. But since the emotional impression of a product is so important, the pragmatic quality and thus functionality takes up a smaller part in user experience design. Therefore ‘Fun’ with its emotional effect plays a bigger role in the whole process and represents the hedonic quality. ‘Simple’ influences both the pragmatic as well as the hedonic quality and is placed in between.
Design Philosophy = Personal Brand
Your design philosophy gives an insight into the way you think. As mentioned at the beginning the way you think is what makes you unique — it is your personal USP. So by defining your own design philosophy you are also laying the foundation of your personal brand. Needless to say, there are many aspects that come into play when it comes to a personal brand. Yet knowing your design philosophy, is a great starting point. It gives you guidance and ensures a clear positioning while creating an authentic appearance.
Of course your philosophy is not set in tablets of stones. As your experience and way of thinking evolves so does your design philosophy and therefore your personal brand.
I’m curious, what is your design philosophy? Tell me about your story— email@example.com.
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 Do, C. (2020, October 14). You Are Not What You Make. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/posts/thechrisdo_you-are-not-what-you-make-activity-6721895325096792064-quKH
 Greenough, H. (1962). Form and Function (4th ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
 Rams, D. (2020). The power of good design. Retrieved from https://www.vitsoe.com/us/about/good-design
 Bergh, J., Behrer, M. (2016). How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Generations Y and Z (3rd ed.). London, Great Britain: Kogan Page.
 Kreutzer, R.T. (2020). Die digitale Verführung. Selbstbestimmt leben trotz Smartphone, Social Media & Co. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer.
 Lucero, A., Mekky, S. (2016). An Exploration of Designing for Playfulness in a Business Context. San Jose, CA: CHI EA ’16. https://doi.org/10.1145/2851581.2892332