Timeless or Noteworthy

When designing something new, you have to choose what it looks like and how it acts. One designer said to me, “It should be timeless and classic.” I disagreed. If you are designing something new, it should be noteworthy and contemporary.

One example is the iPhone. Pick up an original version and it will not at all seem fashionable. It looks small and clunky. It looks sad by today’s standards.


Look closely at the graphics, three dimensionality, bevels and shadows galore. That isn’t timeless. It is not beautiful today. It’s old and dated. No designer would choose this look today.

HOWEVER, at the time the Iphone came out it was intensely modern, noteworthy and beautiful. It was high fashion.

When it comes to user interfaces, making something “timeless” means, by definition, it is not current. Having no time (timeless) precludes having THIS time, this modern moment.

On the other hand, “noteworthy” is a timeless tradition. Noteworthy is the one constant that all modern (ephemeral) designs have. They make you turn your head and say, “Woah! What is that?” with a look of curiousity and interest on your face.

Achieving noteworthiness is difficult, but not impossible. It is not a task left to genius artists alone. The way to do it is to get inspired by something already out there. You don’t need to be the first in the world, you need to be the first in your category. This requires you actively look around.  I suggest UsePanda, codePen and Codrops as a starter. Not everything on them is noteworthy, but when you see something great, steal it.

As a designer in a small startup, it is crucial to stand out. We are not trying to blend in. We can’t just come out with boring normal software. We need to make people sit up and notice. It’s not just about task completion. The way it works is just as important as what it does.

As an example: Slack and Invision are both extremely noteworthy. Also, they are both growing very quickly. Success doesn’t equal noteworthiness though. Building a long term business is more than just a great design. However, it is a clear ingredient to the recipe.

How noteworthy are your designs? Is it even a priority?


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