Arrogance And Humility


A Brief Message is a website that ” features design opinions expressed in short (no more than 200 words) form” usually written by people that know what they’re talking about. This design story is great. Simple, clear yet it shouts in your head to STFU if you’re of  the people that love to endlessly discuss design but actually know squat about it. This particular story was written by Clay Shirk and it goes as it follows:

Design is arrogance.

The designer says, “I know what you want better than you. Here it is.” A designer offers judgment as superior; as Henry Ford said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” (Fig. 1.)

Design is humility.

Users are experts in their own lives, lives the designer will see only if she understands their wants and needs. Design is recognition that “good” only makes sense in that context.

Look at the iPod, and then at MySpace. (Figs. 2 and 3.) The iPod’s design is so excellent, it created, then owned, a category. MySpace is famously ugly, but incredibly valuable to its users.

Neither product is better in any absolute way; neither debate can win. The iPod is an unanswerable repudiation to people who don’t believe design is arrogance; MySpace demonstrates that users prize participation, even at the expense of clarity.

Arrogance without humility is a recipe for high-concept irrelevance; humility without arrogance guarantees unending mediocrity. Figuring out how to be arrogant and humble at once, figuring out when to watch users and when to ignore them for this particular problem, for these users, today, is the problem of the designer.


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