In digital products, ordinary magic achieved through tedious, iterative work that focuses on serving the user in a most convenient and simple manner. This magic is based on a coherent, highly predictable interface which eventually becoming a long-lasting standard.
The beauty of standards is hidden and hard to sense mainly because such magic works seamlessly, without hassle or excitement. It just performs and serves the need. Standards are common practice and they can exist as an abstract system, like letters in a language and numbers in mathematics. The second type is a physical system like traffic signs and lego blocks. The third type is a transferable format, for example, paper size or corporate identity which is often applied on various materials and surfaces.
Making a standard is one of the most challenging tasks for a designer. The 3 biggest challenges in developing ordinary magical products and services are establishing the right process, defining the actual foundation system, and sticking to its continued improvement. Innovative products taking 5 to 10 years, sometimes even longer, to deliver a standard. Because the standard is achieved through external and internal consistencies often involving comprehensive design systems and core message. Helvetica font, Pantone colors, Bootstrap elements, passed through an uncountable amount of tiny changes and adaptations preserving the same message and keeping the effect on the surface. They might change technologies or processes behind, yet stay with the same message all along.
Some times designer is asked to create a design system and it is time consuming high precision work which never fits in one iteration and cannot be done once. The process for ordinary magical products and services have to start from researching trends and best practices - analyzing the existing standards. The research is the basis for the next step where the designer should study, dissect, and disassembles the subject to vital components later to sort, categorize, and group the elements. Those groups are giving the structure necessary for a standard and required for the next step - composition of a guidelines proposition, construction of the samples, and polishing of the rules and dependencies for further tests and observation. Cycling through 4 points of dissembling, categorizing, assembling and testing again and again until there is nothing to add or remove.
Characteristics of a standard revolve around the long-lasting, minimalistic, easy-to-follow guide. Meaning, such design doesn't ride on trends or following innovative patterns and involves a minimum of tools to implement. Would it be an interface or a mechanical device, it is always about refactoring, systematization, and simplification.
Reflections on founding principles of good design.