Design Can Change – Good vs. Bad Design - Spring2 Innovation

Design Can Change – Good vs. Bad Design

May 21, 2020

Often, we hear organizations or individuals talk about good design and bad design. The thing is, what makes something a “good” or “bad” design can shift over time. What was once good design now seems outdated, irrelevant, or just downright terrible.

Remember your first car? Remember having to roll down the windows or adjust mirrors manually? I remember one of our first cars was a lovely gold color with an eight-track, and we thought it was the coolest thing. Sometimes I would listen to my cassette of Boy George on my Walkman in the back seat. Seat belts were optional. Seats were optional, and I remember so many rides taken in the trunks of friends’ station wagons. When we graduated to our red minivan, I don’t think there were even seats in the back. Those were add-ons that we had to get it installed after we took it off the car dealership lot.

In today’s world, these are not examples of good design – some of these are even illegal! Things have changed, new laws, new societal norms, improved features, etc. That’s why it’s so important to recognize that design may need to change continuously. Whether to keep up with increased expectations, innovations, or technological advances – iteration is inevitable.

As a teenager, my family and I drove across the US and Canada, and we dreamed of being able to bring a tv with us. Now minivans have the option of having screens in the back to entertain passengers. Some have internet connectivity so that you can watch or play while enjoying the ride. These are things that seemed futuristic and maybe even impossible at the time.

I had no idea growing up that one day I would want a heated steering wheel, indicators that tell me when cars are in my blind spot, or a trunk that opens when you kick under it. Or did I? These were all solutions to problems that we had; we just didn’t articulate them. For example, growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, my hands were always cold, and it was difficult to drive with big warm mittens. I was extra cautious changing lanes afraid that I had missed a vehicle in my blind spot. I always wanted cup holders for my Big Gulps from 7/11. And how many times did I have too much in my hands and couldn’t open the trunk? Too many to count. These were all challenges that were not addressed back then, and yet I still thought the vehicles at the time were good design.

As you look at design around you, use the good design as examples of how you can make your products and services better. And, remember to listen to your end clients to identify and understand their unarticulated needs –  so you can work towards solving them. As we have seen in many industries, what was once ‘good design’ can be replaced with a much better design. As a designer, you want to be ahead of the curve and continue to develop solutions that solve your end clients’ needs.

We spend a lot of time training policy, IT, HR, and small-medium business professionals on how to understand their end-clients unarticulated needs truly, and how to develop solutions. To learn more about how we might be able to help you, visit or check us out on Youtube.