Nobody likes boring design. Clients don’t, nor do customers. Boring design reflects badly on everyone involved. Designers don’t want to put their name to it, clients want to do everything possible to avoid it and customers will switch brands should their favourite phone/shoes/coffee shop turn to design that doesn’t reflect their absolutely non-boring identity.

 

Except, this oversimplification just isn’t reflected in reality. Here is why boring design usually wins out.

 

Boring design is often simple (and easy to interpret) design.

 

From the moment Allen Lane created Penguin Books in 1935, the design of the paperbacks was considered essential. The entire paperback output was strictly uniform – a dull composition, two blocks of colour dissected by a single block of white with standard typography throughout. The different genres had different colours (orange and white for general fiction, green and white for crime etc), but that was it.

 

Everyone who could see and read knew what a Penguin (and later Pelican) paperback looked like – they were recognisable across the busiest store and represented a brand that stood for solidity and confidence, despite their incredibly low cost of entry. As a result they built a game changing brand and sold millions of books.

 

Success breeds copycats.

 

Apple have set the standard for high end technology ever since Steve Jobs rejoined the company in ’97. But their earlier, more innovative design (can you imagine a sunflower inspired Apple now?) has given way to the ubiquitous (Dieter Rams influnced) aluminium, glass and clean lines, design that we have come to associate with their hugely popular output of the last decade. Highly successful and highly inoffensive. They are cool without offending anyone in the least with the emphasis placed on functionality, accessibility and user orientated design. The success of Apple has led to almost every competitor in their fields (and beyond) simply conforming to type. Try buying a high end laptop or phone that isn’t copying Apple. They are all thin, all one piece metal and all after a piece of that ‘boring’ success.

 

The reason we all want an Apple (or a HTC/Samsung/BMW that could be an Apple), is that all the high end, desirable products conform to the regulation of already successful design. It is an ever decreasing circle (that even Apple seem stuck in). What company will take a chance putting their product out there and not choosing an aesthetic that hasn’t already proven hugely successful? Why take that risk?

 

We would argue that some of the most successful design of all time could be qualified as a bit dull, and that boring actually represents the adjective that most of us; designers, clients and customers, want most of the time. We want design that works, and that shows off our ability to choose design that works. Boring design can give off the impression that a premium has been placed on the user over the whims of the designer – and although that might not actually always be the case, it is an impression that sticks.