Super Normal

Super Normal

"Super Normal" is a Japanese design philosophy pioneered by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison that is a great way to describe the process of industrial design and aesthetics. Dave Morin (CEO of Path) has done a great job of explaining the application of this model to software design. I will be repurposing a lot of his content here, so check out his original article.

Defining Super Normal

The concept here is simple - when you set out to create a new product, you don't start by thinking of something completely new. Instead, think of a product that is already "normal", and then try and make it better or "super normal".

Dave goes on to explain this beautifully with a standard household metal bucket. As he describes:

"The design we know today has evolved over the years to include a few simple features. The bucket is made of durable metal for longevity. It has ripples on the sides to make it easy to grasp with the hands. It has a curved metal handle making it possible to carry with one hand. The bucket design of today serves its function well."

This is our baseline "normal", and is very east to picture in your mind. We now ask the question - what are the key problems? In our bucket analogy when filled with cold water, we can define some of these as the handle which cuts into your hands, picking up the bucket which is freezing to the touch, and lastly the process of pouring out the water which is hard to control and makes you lose some of the water.

Dieter Rams Ten Principles for Good Design

Dieter Rams Ten Principles for Good Design

Defining design is a hugely complicated task. Today design covers everything from graphic design, industrial design, interaction design, user interface, experience design, and even high art. In theory, design is an approach or technique to solve problems, be they visual or physical, spanning these different disciplines.

Apple have shown that design in a business context is no longer a nice to have, but a competitive advantage. This has trickled down to a number of new startups that are disrupting existing categories and "eating the world" - organisations like UberAirbnbSquareGitHub and Dropbox have made design a core of their business, which has led them to grow faster than their existing or emerging competition.

Defining "good design" then becomes hugely important, however this definition is also hard to break down as design always remains subjective.

In the 1970's, Dieter Rams was becoming increasingly concerned about the state of the world around him, an "impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises". As design cannot be measured in a finite way, he created ten principles for good design, often referred to in the design community as the 'ten commandments'.

These principles are even more valid today with the growing complexity around digital, and should be remembered when starting any project.

Beauty: A Short Video by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro

"A path of sighs through the emotions of life.

A tribute to the art and her disarming beauty."

There have been some amazing headways in techniques to animate traditionally static imagery. None however have been quite as hauntingly emotive as 'Beauty', a short film by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro. 

From his website:

"Over Beauty, there has always hung the cloud of destiny and all-devouring time.

Beauty has been invoked, re-figured and described since antiquity as a fleeting moment of happiness and the inexhaustible fullness of life, doomed from the start to a redemptive yet tragic end.

In this interpretation by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro, this beauty is brought back to the expressive force of gestures that he springs from the immobility of canvas, animating a sentiment lost to the fixedness masterpieces.
Its as though these images which the history of art has consigned to us as frozen movement can today come back to life thanks to the fire of digital invention.

A series of well selected images from the tradition of pictorial beauty are appropriated, (from the renaissance to the symbolism of the late 1800s, through Mannerism, Pastoralism, Romanticism and Neo-classicism) with the intention of retracing the sentiment beneath the veil of appearance.

An inspiration that returns to us the sense of one fallen, and the existential brevity that the author interprets as tragic dignity, with an unenchanted eye able to capture the profoundest sense of the image.

Beauty in this interpretation is the silent companion of Life , inexorably leading from the smile of the baby, through erotic ecstasies to the grimaces of pain that close a cycle destined to repeat ad infinitum.

They are, from the inception of a romantic sunrise in which big black birds fly to the final sunset beyond gothic ruins that complete the piece, a work of fleeting time.

Giuliano Corti

(English translation: Thomas McEvoy)."

The Design Process Pyramid

The Design Process Pyramid

The Design Process Pyramid is a framework developed by Ryan Germick, the Google Doodle Team Lead. I stumbled upon this model via William Newton on Medium (I'm paraphrasing a lot on this one).

The Google Doodle is an example of great design that ships consistently. The pyramid is designed to explain the keys to its success. As always with pyramids, build up from the base.