Form and Function


A product without design cannot work. A product that doesn’t work cannot be designed.

I’ve spent the better part of three years creating simplified workflows for individuals and companies. The creation of a harmonious digital system makes my little design-heart sing. But not all workflows are created equal. If you’re looking at a mom’s photo library or an author’s email, the flow is self-contained and manageable. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But when you expand to larger workflows, there’s less certainty.

Take the modern startup - you’ll need to build marketing tools, create a log-in system, manage transactions, and offer support. Each of these elements on their own could have their own masterclass, but no company has time for that. So you fly by the seat of your pants, creating as smooth a path as possible to quality, but inevitably stumbling along the way. The first versions of many well-known apps were quite rough around the edges, but they made their way into the world and became a reality. Assuming you can get past that first hurdle, the challenge is not getting tossed off balance in either direction.

When a company focuses on interface at the expense of execution, you get the digital equivalent of a paperweight. If the product looks nice but doesn’t work, no one will stick around. You can get caught in the trap of making it shiny and pretty and totally ignore core functionality. Like a person with lots of plastic surgery but poor health, it simply won’t last.

And while a structurally sound codebase provides a necessary foundation for a company, it will surely scare off the majority of users once you see the 17-item menu, or the confusing order checkout page, or the impossible-to-understand user profile. A usable interface is what makes people feel comfortable and confident using the product. If you don’t win someone over in the first minute, you’re unlikely to keep their business. And that first minute is won by good design.

It’s always a balance between opposing forces, opposing personalities, opposing worldviews. There’s a reason they are so often pitted against each other - they don’t agree with each other. Until you bring them together, you won’t have a singular vision for your company, you’ll just be pulled by the polarities. But when they unite in that sacred dance, you’ll find a power and purpose that will be impossible to deny.

Robbie Klein