January 18, 2015

innovation and the digital unicorn

The word "innovative" hardly misses a sentence in my workplace meetings lately. Maybe it is because I’m at a startup in the land of successful startups where there is the misguided fear of not being innovative enough. The fear that without trumping your own innovativeness you are certain to face business death. The fear that if you aren’t channeling your inner Steve Jobs, you are failing yourself, your company, and your audience will abandon you.


I feel this most as a web designer, held responsible for making sites look more ‘innovative’ than the next gal. The problem is, design by definition is not innovative. Design communicates information for a purpose. Design is visual problem solving. Design must be understood to be effective. In order to be effective, design must rely on the familiar so it can be understood. If you must rely on the familiar, you cannot in confidence consider yourself innovative.


In my experience, when someone wants a site to look innovative, they really just mean they want it to look cool. The problem with focusing on looking cool is that you overlook function for form. If your site looks great, but no one can use it, what did you really accomplish? In all honesty, finding the perfect balance of form and function in a website is like finding a digital unicorn. But, with clear goals (this is key), smart thinking, progressive technology, and creativity, "innovation" doesn’t have to be a myth.


“Think more, design less"