“That’s ugly”: Why design isn’t just about aesthetics

January 18, 2021
Design Aesthetic

If there’s one thing to be said about humans, it’s that we all like different things. Books, fashion, art, hobbies, travel—our tastes vary greatly.

This is why, when it comes to design, you and your designer (or you and your partner and your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin) may disagree on the aesthetic.

Design is subjective. What your designer develops for you may not be to your taste. While it can be disconcerting when you don’t like something that your designer develops for you, here’s why it’s less important that you may think.

Your designer isn’t aiming give you something you like

They’re giving you something that will work; something that will appeal to your target market. Design aesthetic depends entirely on the type of business you operate and who you intend to sell to.

When you show your partner or your team a design and ask their opinion, you may be inadvertently diluting your trust in your designer. Because let’s face it—when you put it out to vote and the majority veto it—you may begin to question the designer’s ability. In doing so, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.

A good designer won’t necessarily just give you what you want. Or what appeals to your personal design aesthetic. They will be basing their design on their years of experience, the research they conduct and their understanding of what will work best for your brand.

Personal design aesthetic preferences always play second fiddle to results

Ask yourself this: would you rather the design be the best looking or the best functioning? Design is all about getting you the greatest return on investment (ROI). If either you or the designer get too caught up in how something looks, the true objective can be lost. In order to achieve a peak ROI, both you and your designer should be focused on understanding how your brand is going to solve your target market’s problem through both content and design. This is where a brand strategy can really make a difference.

So, if design aesthetic is subjective, how do you know if your designer has delivered something that will work… even if it doesn’t appeal to you? After all, it could very well be the designer who has bad taste.

It’s all in the consult

In such a subjective world, it’s vitally important that a designer takes time to consult with you from the get-go. They need to be able to talk you through their process and help you clarify the best approach to your brand design. They should be asking you a litany of questions about your business, such as:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What problem does your business solve?
  • What are your values?
  • What is your mission?
  • What does your brand voice sound like?

If your designer doesn’t take the time to ask you these kinds of questions, they are not going to be able to deliver a results-driven design. And so, anything that they produce will be their subjective take on design aesthetic. If this is the case, it’s in your best interest to push back. After all, if you’re not getting something that will be of the greatest benefit to your business, you may as well get something that you like.

A good designer can explain why design decisions have been made

When delivering their designs, your designer should take the time to present the result to you. Along with any information, facts, data and/or theories that have influenced the path they took through development. If they have deviated from your preferred direction, they need to be able to explain why—and more importantly—how this will be of benefit to your business.

And they may push back on your design aesthetic changes

Part of the designer’s job is to educate and advise you. So, if you come to them asking for changes to mock-ups or tweaks to their design, they may try to advise you against it, based on their knowledge and expertise. It may pay to listen to their hesitations, especially if they have been in the business for a long time. That said, you may choose to continue with your changes, and that’s your prerogative as the client.

Remember though, the process is a two-way street. Ideally your designer will ask you about the reasoning behind your thought processes and take into account why you’re requesting changes.

Related insights