Your taste in design.


As someone thinking of getting into design I have a question:

As a normal designer how much ability do you have to make designs fit your taste?

How often do you have to completely disregard your taste in the design process?

Do you ever have the opportunity to be free to do whatever you want (within reason) like an artist?


It depends on what your project role is. Sometimes it’s about aesthetics, sometimes you’re solving thorny problems that require design thinking. Assuming it is about aesthetics, usually your job is to help the product’s design language communicate something specific about the client’s product or brand message - iow to visually or through other senses help them fulfill the promise they are making to prospective customers. That doesn’t mean throwing your own taste out the window, but whatever you do must have a compelling story that links it back to what the client is trying to say with the product. Since your job is a business function and not to produce fine art, your work must generally relate to a business objective, thus you rarely have the opportunity to do “whatever you want” unless you are part of some kind of self-directed skunk works.

I’ve designed a lot of products that are not for me. I think it is important to design the product based around who it is for, but still end with a design you are proud of. this means you must have a unique POV based on your own research, insights and conclusions. The alternatives are you either listen to what others tell you to do all the time and be in effect a living breathing pencil, or you just do whatever you want and you in effect become a one trick pony.

It is nice to do some pet projects where you have total creative freedom. Competitions are a good way to explore your own tastes. In projects for actual clients, there are always requirements from a technical and business perspective you have to take into account and the process of this ongoing conversation, if it turns out well can result in a design you are happier with than one that you would have developed completely by yourself. It’s also a matter of intuiting in which projects you will be able to handle the design work the way you prefer. For some projects, the ‘black box’ designer works well where the individual ideas of a single designer are incorporated or overlayed onto a product where in others it’s more of a coffeehouse where everyone keeps having a conversation about the design. I prefer a middle way. Reminds me of this:

My taste in the designs I am paid to do is irrelevant.

Even if I were to be a customer of that design, my input is n=1. The companies that hire me usually have a minimum of a $50MM market potential for a product they want me to design. Since I won’t spend 50 million annually on their product, hopefully you can see that my taste should never drive the design. Through user research, there is a possibility the design could match my tastes, but that is yet to happen in 25 years.

I do design and fabricate furniture that I sell on occasion. In that case, either you buy what is my taste or you don’t, I don’t care. But I have a “real” job that pays the bills. Starving artist is a cliche because it is true.

Personally, I like things with interesting textures and nice colors. Professionally, I’ve grown to appreciate more minimal design. I feel a good designer should be able to be versatile and accommodating.

I love this poster. It fits with my favorite projects. Most of my favorite projects were things that no one else wanted to work on.

I heard an interview with Mike Rowe a few months ago where he said something along the lines of : the best way to do creative work is to have a boss who has no interest in what you are doing.

i think successful designers come in many shapes and sizes, some get to sell their own tastes and some are chameleons of taste.

Personally, i enjoy being a chameleon. I like researching markets, customers and the history of design in a category and then using my skills and perspective to analyze and solve the problem.

Far too reasonable and logical of an answer Ryan, we are going to need you to be a lot more polarizing. :slight_smile:

sorry, i’ll try harder

do you think my time away from this board made me less polarizing or the board less polarizing?