There is such a thing as good design.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. — Wikipedia

You would think that once we had found an optimal solution for a problem we would stick to it. But no. And this is why we almost inexplicably keep having ridiculous and or failed instances of things that could have been, were, fine in past years, decades or even centuries.

Take bridges. The Clifton Suspension Bridge opened in ‎1864. It is fine. But we do not collectively want predictably built durable bridges. We want “world class” unique architectural bridges that inspire fantasy rather than confidence. I mean we know how to build bridges properly. But properly goes out the window as soon as a committee of marketing professionals and tourism yobbos start meeting.

This is precisely why the Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed. It was designed as architectural eyecandy without nearly enough thought being put into its engineering design. In the end Morandi’s world-class architectural design was brought down by, … the resonant pounding of rain. If Isambard Kingdom Brunel had designed it a century and a half ago, it would still be in operation.

I was asked today why I have stopped playing World of Warships. The answer was that the developers release frequent broken content updates. Sometimes every other release suffers from crashing, freezing and terrible lag. Sometimes a few in a row work. Sometimes a few in a row don’t. And the thing is. If they just stopped at a version that was stable, the game would be fine. But they have this mindset that everything must be updated and upgraded with feature bloat and more and more content. And you cannot keep doing that and expect the product to work.

I have a new client. And because we are new to each other I decided to minimize complications by doing their work in the current version of Adobe Illustrator (Creative Cloud 2020). And what I discovered is that the current version is the buggiest in more than a decade. In particular the snap-to is at least as unreliable as the previous worst version which was Illustrator 7. There is no way to trust it and it will betray you. But more frustrating still, the application is very laggy. Like laggy as a poorly optimized online multiplayer game might be. But without the excuse. And this causes multitudes of problems.

I was doing work for a regular client today and I was using CC 2018. It has 99.9% of the features of 2020, but without the broken snap-to and the lag. So what were the TWO update cycles since then for anyway? Pointlessly making the product worse!

In every design process, there comes a time when you have solved the essential problems you began with and have a reasonably optimal solution. You may have to revisit that problem if the goalposts move on you. But otherwise, at some point, if you do not stop making changes you are inevitably moving away from the reasonably optimal solution. You are making the design worse. I have often been in that moment were the client direction on a job had turned that corner and the project was on its highway to hell.

And if I could make one plea, it would be that we lose the fascination with updates, upgrades and novelty in the design of things we expect to work.

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I am an experienced freelance graphic artist and sometime canoeist. I feel strongly about the quality of professional work and like sitting by a remote lake on a sun-warmed rock.

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