Design Talk - That Looks Pretty!

I've always been interested in the words and phrases people use to describe design. With design becoming increasingly important, people are also discussing it more often too. I listen to a lot of podcasts and some of them also include reviews of apps, websites, and software tools. I'm struck by the range of terms that are used to describe designs and I'm sometimes taken aback at my own negative reaction to the use of particular words usually by non-designers. Of course, everyone should be able to use whatever words they like to describe their impression of a design much like they can regarding anything else, right? Well, when you think about it, many other things are described using language that is quite specific and it is considered booish to use other language. Consider the words used to describe the taste, smell, and look of wine. Words like bouquet, dry, lively, fruity, bull-bodied, legs, robust, and woody. These are terms that are accepted as appropriate to use in describing wine. I decided to check with my Twitter followers and posted the question, "what's your favorite pet peeve about the words that people use to describe design?" The responses I received are shown in the wordle shown above (I created it using Jonathan Feinberg's Wordle creation tool). As you can see, the word that people dislike the most when used to describe design is "pretty". Interestingly, that happens to be my own least favorite word too. I find that it cheapens or demeans the design. Other words that people mentioned included, "sexy, pristine, flashy, contemporary, user-friendly, dynamic, cool, organic, and intuitive."

So, if these are the words that people don't like hearing when they are used to describe design, what words do they like to hear? I wondered that too so again asked my Twitter followers, this time saying, "we previously discussed pet peeves regarding words used to describe design. What words do you prefer people to use to describe design?"

The responses were of three types and incluced the following:

User Utterances:

  • I don't have to think
  • I know exactly what to do here

Client/Developer Utterances:

  • Anything as long as it starts with "you/your" instead of "our"
  • None, stop talk about it and actually make something

 Design Attributes/Descriptors: 

  • Transparent
  • Efficient
  • Uncluttered
  • Way
  • Expressing form
  • Elegant
  • Clean

I rather liked those responses and will keep them in mind when I'm talking design and suggest that you consider them too.  Thanks so those who provided their input.