Of magicians and designers

Design \ Magic

I can remember every magic show I've ever been to.

I love card magic, sleight of hand, and just overall clever ways to create wonder for people.

I could describe the taste of the stale popcorn from the local Kiddie Park while I watched a magician perform trick after trick, up close, surrounded by kids and parents, with dozens of pairs of eyes watching from every angle.

I could talk about the dumbfounded, burning curiosity I felt the first time I saw a performer lift a curtain, only to step out one second later wearing a completely different outfit.

Those memories have stuck with me for nearly 20 years.

Magicians create experiences that reserve a place in our minds, anchored by the emotion of wonder. They spark curiosity and awe. They make their craft so transparent that you can't see it, even when you're watching closely.

The thing is, designers should aspire to be like magicians.

As designers, we get way too excited about our tools and methods. We get carried away trying to shine the spotlight on our technical abilities. This is misdirection of the worst kind. Instead of designing for the person who will experience our work, we design for our own gratification of making something "perfectly kerned", "geometrically balanced", or "just like" that other brand we like.

Instead, we should strive to make our methods invisible. We should focus on our work feeling right rather than being right. We should take pride in the experience we can create for our clients, users, friends, and family. New subtleties will present themselves, and our work will generate a little more childlike wonder.


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