I’ve been examining a web design sweet spot that falls at the intersection between Credibility, Relevance and Findability. These are all ideas that extend past just design for the web. They apply, either concretely or in a more abstract sense, to any communication art. Credibility includes Aesthetics, User Experience, Authority and Authenticity.

The Design Sweet Spot

Credibility and Authenticity in Design

Credibility is possibly the most underestimated and misused facet of design. There is a struggle (or is it a dance?) between using design to only appear credible, and using it to reflect an entity’s true authority. In the first example, design is used to create a mask; In the second, it creates a lens.

And in that second example, this doesn’t necessarily mean creating a lens to one girl in flip-flops at a wifi cafe. Design can capture a vision that is genuine and brilliant. The flip-flop girl may be a genius manufacturing consultant, and that’s what the design lens needs to focus on. Her website has to make her value crystal clear.

There is a lot of bold confidence in the earliest logos of now-famous companies highlighted in this Business Insider article. I’m willing to bet most of them used their visual materials to make promises they believed they could keep.

Cultural “sophistication” makes things more complicated. Over and over, beginning in childhood, we’re told to say “thanks” and “I’m sorry,” whether or not we mean it. Later, we’re told to “fake it ‘til you make it.” While forcing a smile can often truly lift your mood, you’re back to that same thin line: is it a lens to focus on the happy thoughts that will lift you out of a funk? or just a mask to hide your real feelings?

Elvis, by Gracey Stinson on MorguefileIn life and in design, these are important questions to keep asking. For designers, there’s no perfect answer: it’s a process, one question out of many we ask ourselves as we grow creatively. For design customers, it’s important to go in knowing this is one of the questions. It will help you make better decisions when reviewing design work, and it will help you give better feedback than “I’m just not feelin’ it.”

Ultimately, you can speak with a Scottish accent (UK’s most trusted accent), wear blue (really) and swear a lot (sorry, that one’s a myth), but you’re better off—and more likely to build a lasting brand—just being yourself (unless you can be a unicorn).

P.S. Thanks to Gracey Stinson for the awesome Elvis photo. This guy rocks.

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