Guiding Principles

Accessibility as an example of good, humane design


Six deceptively simple principles help guide my design work and how I think about creating things for real people.

Make People’s Lives Better

Despite what Google might say, doing no evil falls far short of doing good. I believe that design should be used as a force for good in the world, and for people in particular. There are many ways to make people’s lives better with design, however big or small, and that should always be a goal.

Balance Simplicity and Complexity

Design should be as simple as possible, but not simpler (to borrow the words of a famous physicist). It should always be the goal of design to strike the right balance between these competing forces.

Use Intelligent Defaults

Kevin Kelly made the case for the importance of the default, and hit the nail on the head about the nature of design decisions. It’s analogous to the notion that you can’t “not” design, and we must always be mindful of how our chosen defaults in design play out in the world.

Be Consistent, But Be Smart About It

Emerson is often misquoted as having said “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The more nuanced truth of his actual statement (“A foolish consistency…”) is much wiser. Consistency for its own sake (in design and elsewhere) is probably a foolish thing, unless there’s an underlying benefit to be gained through it.

Design for the Right Scale

When designing products, applications or Web sites, scale can vary greatly in terms of data, content and number of users (to name a few). Failure to take scalability considerations into account can lead to grave failures of design. It’s important to get scale right and design accordingly.

Design Systems, Not Islands

The designer sits at the center of a Web…They are an integral part of connecting users, technology, goods and services, and businesses with the things they create. If we as designers fail to see those threads of connection, we design things in a vacuum. While those creations may be idyllic islands of aesthetics, objects of beauty and grace, they may yet fail to actually work in the real world where they have to live.