Better design is not "less" design

by whitewirestudio

A senior editor at, Dylan Tweney recently posted an article in both The Atlantic and Wired stating, “The message is now free from the medium,” and discussing how the third wave of web design is to be deemed The Undesigned Web.

And almost immediately following, Fast Company’s Co.Design posted an article titled Is “Undesigned” the Next Great Web Trend? Fat Chance written by John Pavlus. Basically it’s all a matter of semantics here. The “Undesigned” examples given by Tweney, from applications like Flipboard to the Arc90 Lab Experiment Readability actually show design at its best. (I have to say, I haven’t used either of these, so all speculation is based on the videos I have seen below.) They take the users’ wants and needs into more consideration than most—which is what good design is all about. It irks me to hear people say something isn’t “designed” enough, when we should all be changing our language to say specifically what we mean: it needs more flourishes? more details? more structure?

Here’s an excerpt from Co.Design:
The only difference between these “undesigned” tools and the Flash-addled screenjunk they replace is that one is optimized for what we want to do with text–read it–and the other isn’t. Neither is “less” or “more” designed. One is simply better designed for its function than the other.

What actually repulses us is distraction, not design.

“So much web design is not improving the content experience. That’s what’s behind this mini-rebellion,” says Jason Fried of 37signals, who’s been in the digital-simplicity business for over a decade. Saying there’s “too much” design and demanding a revolt or a retreat is as silly as the inarticulate king in Amadeus telling Mozart his music has “too many notes.” Of course, not every designer is a Mozart, but that’s not the point. As legendary designer Milton Glaser said, less is not more. Just enough is more. We don’t need fewer notes: we need the right ones. And designers, now as always, are giving them to us.