A Design Feeling

Written by Robert Lloyd
11th July 2018, 5 minute read
Also available on Medium and Prototypr

For those of you who might have heard of them or even like their music, I recently saw the Foo Fighters live for the first time. And while that may seem to be an abstract start with vague promise of focusing on the ties between audio to visual creativity, it all comes together with this intimate (albeit to 80,000 people) and impassioned speech from frontman and music legend Dave Grohl:

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something. Do you know what? My duty in life is to bring love to all you motherfuckers every fucking night, that’s what I’ve got to do. That’s my fucking job. I wake up every morning and I think, I’m going to come out here to eighty thousand people and you know what I’ve got to do? I’ve got to bring love to you every fucking night, and that’s what I try to do every fucking night, I bring love.”

Yes, removing the odd expletive might make it more poetic, however it raises an important question as to what we as creatives should strive for every day. I personally enjoy their music, and the way they play, but that isn’t a subject even touched on in his statement to the crowd. The entire concept of the speech was about the end goal in an emotional form and showed the means purely as a way to best achieve that innate desire.

We as designers inherently want to create the best possible ‘product’ whether it’s through the visual Art Direction, content, usability, theory or whatever other avenue is up for grabs for you. And that is all well and good. A carefully considered outcome to a brief is exactly what we should all be achieving, however this process driven thinking is often where our interest can end. So long as the information is delivered clearly, the interaction is smooth and the user is happy, that’s our job done... ish.

Let’s take a very simple website for example: WeTransfer. The user experience and interface is possibly the most clear-cut I have ever seen for an entire site. Drag and drop or click to upload, enter in the emails and an optional message and hey presto, you’re sending files. This simplicity makes me happy, so from an objective stance the project’s means have succeeded well.

Going a layer deeper to the way it makes you feel, we have the randomised artwork backgrounds. A lot of people in the creative industry use this site to send files to clients, so not only is this a lovely way to feel more personal to what we do, but it offers inspiration beyond what you might usually see during a time of what could easily be dull admin. It makes me excited to visit the site not only to send files but see this collage of eye-candy. I want to go there beyond the brand’s service. I can only imagine that this feeling is even more special to those who don’t work in our industry.

One of the nicest touches however is the files sending. On the mobile app I get a little parallax effect on tilt which is nice to pass the time as it uploads, however when completed a little random and looped gif appears to celebrate.

The perfect loop is calming to any stress of the deadline, brings a smile to my face, offers the chance to pause in rest, and it makes me even more excited about the recipient seeing my files.

Mailchimp have very similar nods to the user’s mindset through their campaign-sending journey, particularly at the end with a sweat dripping finger hovering tentatively above the giant send button…

…followed by the enthusiastic hi-five to the screen almost making you want to hit the screen back (in both teamwork joy and relief I should add).

The design didn’t have to include these flourishes at all. They could have even had statics instead, but that tiny addition of motion brings a relatable life and energy to the process which I want to respond to. This over-exaggeration of action hits home because it reflects exactly how you feel at that time.

As simple as these examples are, and despite possible improvements, what we’re seeing are little considerations to the user where they matter. The emotions of someone under pressure or tediously needing to send something is carefully thought about. And these won’t even be the best examples out there, just ones I think which we may share in common.

So back to Mr Grohl. Music and design are largely similar in the fact they are both omnipresent in the modern world and have the ability to resonate emotionally through audiences’ lives. We interact with design daily - on a near constant basis. So beyond a clean product and ‘best practices’, perhaps a shift in bringing design back closer to a user’s emotion is required. Our duties in life are to bring feeling to every motherfucker every fucking day, that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s our fucking job.