The Power of Invisible Design


Every design choice influences a user in subtle, often unnoticeable ways.

Things that are well designed tend to be invisible. Things that are poorly designed are glaring and obtrusive. Think about doors. Try to remember the last time you used a well-designed door, one that functioned properly and didn’t give you a problem. Kind of hard right? You probably used one not five minutes ago but didn’t notice. This is invisible design.

Woman trying to open a doorNow think about a door that gave you trouble to open. Do you pull? Do you push? Why is this door so awfully heavy? I’m sure this experience is very relatable. And it wasn’t quite so hard to think of an example, was it? The poorly designed door, in this case, was obvious.But more than obvious, the experience was unpleasant. It might have left you frustrated and put you in a bit of a mood. Design has power over your opinions and emotions. This is crucial to think about as you wonder over the placement of features, font sizes, images, and the very words you use to describe things. If a door is frustrating to use – if it leaves you feeling a bit foolish every time you encounter it – you might actively avoid it in favor of another door. Likewise, no matter how beautiful your app or product is, if it fails to be useful, or even approachable, your audience might avoid it in favor of something else.

Things to think about:

    • Function: Is the product easy to use?
    • Accessibility: Is the information understandable, both legible and comprehendible?
    • Impact: Does the product leave the user feeling the intended emotion? Your design should carry that message through — whether its intent is to be neutral, or to make your audience feel a sense of urgency, worry, anger, or calm.

Every choice you make in your design should further these three concepts. Design has the power to influence in subtle, often unnoticeable ways, and we must be mindful of this as we create.

Gabrielle Martinez

Gabrielle Martinez

Gabrielle Martinez ’21, Blue CoLab’s Lead Designer for Art Direction, is a double major in Economics at the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, and in Computer Science at the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

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