What is “Good Design”?

By Jewel Villapando and Jasmine Jiang

UW/UX Waterloo
5 min readJul 24, 2023


📕 Defining “Good Design”

Have you ever started designing for an app, website, product, or personal project and stopped to wonder if your design choices were the right ones? While there is no clear right or wrong to design, there are good design principles to generally make note of and adhere to.

First of all, how do we even define “good design”? Oftentimes beginner designers can get caught up in the visual design of their project/product. It’s easy to get tripped up in wanting to create something that looks new and unique, but at its core, good design makes a product useful. No matter how the design looks, it needs to be functional. Good design takes in lots of criteria from the functionality to psychological impact to aesthetic appeal, but should ultimately be simple. User experience design is one form of design that reflects this goal of simple but useful, the primary usage of UX design being to ensure that the way a consumer interacts with a design/product is as streamlined and easy as possible.

That leads to us exploring a little bit of functional design, which is an approach to design that focuses on the function of the product rather than the aesthetics. Again, many people think of design and good design as what is most visually appealing and striking, and that is true to an extent, but above all else the functionality and ease of access to a design is what is most important.

After all, the need for designers arises from the need create solutions to problems in a way that is inclusive, aesthetic, and simple — and that means that designers must juggle functionality and visual appeal, finding the balance of what visual element of their designs will draw people into their solutions and also what functional elements will keep people interested and engaged.

🔎 How to Identify Good Design: Examples of Good and Bad Design

Recognizing good design is essential for anyone involved in the design process or appreciating the end result. While design appreciation can be subjective, there are certain indicators that can help you identify “good design.” Here are some key factors to consider along with examples of good and bad design:

  • User-Centric

Good Example: Apple AirPods — Wireless earbuds that seamlessly connect to devices and offer intuitive touch controls. Their innovative design, with a focus on simplicity and aesthetic appeal, sets them apart in the market.

Bad Example: Complex TV Remote Control — Some TV remote controls suffer from poor design, featuring cluttered layouts, overwhelming buttons, and weird placements. The complexity may lead to usability issues and a shorter lifespan.

  • Clear and Consistent

Good Example: Google Search Results Page — Uses clear visual cues, consistent typography, and a well-organized layout, resulting in a user-friendly design that enables efficient information retrieval and a seamless search experience.

Bad Example: Unreadable Product Packaging — Product packaging with small fonts, cluttered information, and poor contrast makes it difficult for users to read essential details

  • Efficient & Accessible

Good Example: Slack — Designed for efficiency and accessibility with shortcuts, integrations, and effective search functionalities. The interface is simple and consistent, providing a clear visual hierarchy and intuitive interactions. Users can quickly grasp how to navigate and use Slack.

Bad Example: Poorly Designed Door Handles — Does not serve its functionality due to its confusing design, making it difficult to determine whether to push or pull. This causes inconvenience and frustration from users.

📚 Principles of Good Design

Now that you know how to recognize good design, how can you apply it yourself in your own design journey? German product designer, Dieter Rams, once came up with 10 principles of good design that you can keep in mind during your own design process, some of which include:

  1. Good design makes a product useful — as mentioned before, designers create solutions to problems. This means that when designing for a product or goal in mind, the end result should serve a purpose or function. A purpose can be something as straightforward as for the design to serve as a piece of decor or as a visual asset, or as complicated as trying to convey the operational functions of a complex machine through just the design and structure. These are examples of purposes that different types of designers may be focused on, from UI/UX to product to graphical.
  2. Good design is aesthetic — this one is fairly straight-forward; one of the first things someone notices about a design is whether or not it is visually appealing. In order to draw someone in to your design, it must be, to an extent, aesthetic.
  3. Good design is as little design as possible — good design should not be complicated! Less can sometimes be more with design, and the ideal design for a solution is one that is as simple as possible. Think of walking through a maze — whether you are able to walk through the shortest path or the longest path does not change your destination, but the shortest path is the simplest and most easy to understand path that most people would prefer. The same can be said of design!

These principles have since become famous guidelines that have inspired designers globally for years. Dieter Rams believed in the design philosophy of “less, but better,” and a famous quote by Jared Spool backs this up as well- “Good design, when done well, should be invisible.”

When designing, every designer should keep in mind who the design is for and what problem the design is supposed to fix. The end goal for a designer should be for the design to be accessible and understood by everyone.

🔑 Key Considerations for Your Next Project

When starting your next project, it is crucial to find a balance between aesthetics and functionality. After all, aesthetics draw attention and create an initial impression, but functionality ensures that your design is usable and serves its purpose effectively. However, above all, simplicity should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Good design isn’t about overcomplicating things; it’s about streamlining processes to create intuitive experiences. By prioritizing usability and practicality, you can ensure that your design serves its intended purpose effectively. Keep in mind that a visually appealing design is not enough; it should also deliver a seamless and meaningful user experience.

Embrace feedback as a valuable tool for improvement. Actively seek input from users, stakeholders, and colleagues to gain insights and identify areas for enhancement. Iterate on your designs based on feedback, continuously striving to refine and optimize the user experience.

With these considerations in mind, you can create designs that are both visually appealing and user-friendly. Remember, there are never dumb users, only bad designs. So let your design be a good one by prioritizing usability, simplicity, and the overall user experience.



UW/UX Waterloo

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