Design is Temporary
Product Design as artefact
We need to get comfortable with the idea that product design is a temporary measure to get us from nothing to solution.
I recently had some feedback on a design where I’d used a screenshot to mock a part that wasn’t being built as it helped describe the layout. The feedback I got was that the alignment on that screenshot wasn’t perfect. But it didn’t matter to the developer anyway, because it was pre-existing code that just provided value when understanding the context of what I had designed.
This is a small thing, and fixing that is trivial, but also unnecessary. Despite it feeling potentially critical to the designer’s eye, it’s not essential to communicating the changes required thanks to good communication with the developer.
Throwing things away
Digital design as part of the product process is where ideas—usually from a non-designer and from inside their head—first become real. So it’s natural for us to hold on to them as a permanent artefact that communicates that moment in time. But it’s just that—a moment in time.
To realistically keep a design in sync with reality, we’d have to carefully structure our file, maintain our layer names, and return back to it regularly to tend to the garden. This is counterintuitive and reduces effort well spent on new ideas and novel solution finding.
Thinking of design as throwaway helps to reduce friction and keep the eye on the prize—shipping something real. The closer we can stay together with engineering and develop in tandem, the better the overall outcomes. And Design Engineers can bridge this gap even better by understanding both sides and building fast prototypes in real code.
You’ve likely experienced that the most pertinent and frequent feedback comes when people are testing the real thing, so the closer (and earlier) you get to real the better the outcomes for everyone, especially your sanity.
Design is crucial
This doesn't mean that we should completely disregard the importance of design. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Design plays a crucial role in the success of a product. However, we need to shift our mindset from viewing design as a static, unchanging source of truth, to a temporary artefact that realises a product vision.
Design is a tool that helps us get to the end goal, which is a successful product. It's important to remember that the design is not the end goal itself. The design is a means to an end. Once the product is launched, the design will continue to evolve and change based on user feedback and market trends. This is why it's important to view design as a temporary measure. By doing so, we can focus on creating the best possible product and not get bogged down by the design process.
Furthermore, viewing design as temporary also allows for more experimentation and risk-taking. When we are not overly attached to a particular design, we are more willing to try out new ideas and take risks that could lead to a better product. This mindset also encourages collaboration and iteration, as we are more open to feedback and willing to make changes to improve the product.
Focusing on the end goal
Whilst design is an important part of the product development process, it's crucial to view it as a temporary measure rather than a permanent artefact. By doing so, we can reduce friction, focus on the end goal, and be more open to experimentation and collaboration. Ultimately, this mindset can lead to a better product and a more successful outcome.
So when someone asks “do you name your layers?”, say no and enjoy yourself. If you’re close with your engineers, they won’t read the layer names anyway because it really doesn’t matter that much (believe me, I used to do it).