Good Design is Timeless
Most of us who call ourselves “creatives” like change.
We like to push boundaries, to fuse styles and experiment with new possibilities. And yet, we also like things that might be described as iconic: designs and concepts that came darn close to perfection and can be appreciated for decades to come.
There is a push-pause phenomenon to what we do — we push for new ideas, but also pause and tip our caps to those who flirt with perfection.
Before mastering anything, we all must first become acquainted with the fundamentals: We learned to walk before running, to multiply before learning algebra, to scribble before we learned to write. If you played sports or music, the fundamentals were drilled in early on, and returned to again and again. And likewise, at the foundation of any good design, one can find an understanding of and appreciation for the fundamentals of design.
Timeless design is essentially simple — but never simplistic. Simplistic design skips the hard work required to solve the problems that good design goes on to overcome. And when you can overcome these problems and keep the design simple, design can then become timeless.
Last year, I visited the Design Museum in London, whose halls are filled with icons of design — largely product design. These iconic products mark pivotal moments in design, having changed the way everything else was designed from that point forward. When I stopped to evaluate why the Braun men’s razor, for example, had been promoted to iconic status at the Design Museum, I found that it (and all of these seminal products) honored the fundamentals of good design. They were tight and whole and simple, but they also seemed to push forward into some new space — and encourage others to follow.
To design something that will become timeless involves an understanding of the fundamentals, and yet, it also goes on to connect with us on a deeply human level — that part of us that is always there, no matter which trends may change.
Twenty years ago, I designed a new brand mark for Rexius, a small landscape organics company that bravely entrusted their new logo to a relatively unproven 24-year-old designer. Part of my confident pitch assured them that the mark I created would remain relevant for two decades. I invoked the fundamentals of design to create a simple, yet fundamentally sound, logo. And I’m proud to find that logo standing strong at this milestone occasion, 20 years later. Perhaps it even has another decade or more left in it. Will it last forever? Probably not. But it has proven itself timeless through two decades of shifting trends and fashions.