Sometimes it’s hard to identify good design — because, by definition, good design is transparent. Those objects and items that are well-designed just seem to work, and the careful design process behind their appearance is easily taken for granted. The Design of the Year Awards, held in London each year, seek to recognize the highest achievement in design across a myriad of fields. This year’s big winner — the Design of the Year selection — was the totally reinvented and intriguingly minimalist Gov.uk website.
Here at the Nazmiyal Blog, we are passionate about more than just the timeless beauty of antique Oriental rugs. In fact, we have a wide array of interests. Most especially, we are interested in good design and the positivity that comes along with it. Design is of course all around us – almost everything that we interact with — all day, every day — is the product of a carefully thought out process of design and manufacture. Those items that are well-designed tend to make us happy or increase our productivity in a subtle, often indescribable way. And those things that are masterfully designed possess a very special characteristic: they don’t seem to be designed at all. They intuitively work, making our interaction with them seamless and fluid.
Each year in the UK the tops in design are recognized at an awards ceremony in South London. That which is deemed by a jury of experts as being the stand out entry is bestowed the lofty “Design of the Year Award.” Entries in the competition come from just about every field imaginable – architecture, fashion, furniture, technology, and a great many more. This year, in a crowded field of 98 entries – representing the best of the best – the winner of the Design of the Year award was none other than Gov.uk, the official homepage of Her Majesty’s Government.
While this may initially seem surprising – I have to admit, when I first read this news I thought that perhaps I was misreading something, somewhere – upon further investigation it actually makes a great deal of sense. The webpage in question, recently redesigned from top to bottom by an in-house team of web designers on the payroll of the British government, is really something to behold. It is minimalism in action to the highest degree imaginable, and to the best effect imaginable. The site is jam-packed with important information from every department of the British government, ministerial and otherwise, and yet is extraordinarily clean and exceptionally easy to navigate.
This is probably the very best feature of the site, and most likely a major reason why it took the top award. After all, great design is transparent. It is also important to think about context: because there is so much information on this site that is so important to so many people, the fact that it is clean and easily navigated is a tremendous boon. Think of the retired, older Englishman who desperately needs information about a government pension, or is perhaps confused about his entitlements. The super stripped-down UK.gov, with its large, crisp text and clean, logical layout will make his search that much pleasanter, that much easier. Rather than having to deal with a crowded, cluttered site full of jargon and scattered, broken links, the retiree is able to find what he’s looking for quickly, and then move on. Which is just what just about anyone would most desire when dealing with just about any government.
More than anything, the selection of Gov.uk as the Design of the Year winner at the 2013 awards is a testament to the power of good design and to the case that good design can transcend conventional boundaries and elevate any item or concept to the forefront of discussion. And while the minimalistic aesthetic of Gov.uk may not be everybody’s cup of tea, its ease of use and clarity of purpose is an achievement. Plus, who can argue with transparent government that is easy to deal with? While Gov.uk was the big winner at this year’s design awards, in a way everyone who has to access the site is also a winner. And that’s good design.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy other content from the Nazmiyal Blog! Check out this post about David Thomas Smith’s Anthropocene exhibit currently showing in Dublin, this one about mid-century modern design, or this one about story-telling with modern design!
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