I’ve heard the word undesigned tossed around regularly as of late. I have heard people describe their website as undesigned, and it seems almost half of the responses are an argument of how it is not undesigned at all, instead of actually commenting on the work itself. People argue that it is actually carefully designed, not undesigned, when in actuality the website is both carefully designed and undesigned. I personally believe that there is a misunderstanding of what undesigning really is.
Undesigned is not not-designed.
Undesigned should not be read as not-designed. Quite literally, the word undesigned means “having no ulterior or fraudulent purpose” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Undesigned work is optimized for a specific function. Each and every design decision should be based on the chosen function without distractions. You would remove all superfluous design elements that do not directly affect the end goal. Less is more.
There are a lot of factors involved in undesigning that are not obvious on the surface. In all actuality, that is the point – to create something that’s so intuitive to use that it does not look overly designed. Every element is looked at from both a visual as well as functional view point. Each design element has a purpose: to assist the user in accomplishing their objectives.
When undesigning, you must be extremely focused on your end goal. Have your primary objective clearly defined, and let that be the guide to all your design solutions. Your goal should be to get people to reach that objective in the simplest, fastest, and most efficient way possible.
When discussing undesigning, the term minimalism is often referenced. Minimalism is most often used in describing visual art and music. Minimalism describes a movement where “the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts.” It is also commonly used to describe a style of architecture where “the subject is reduced to its necessary elements”.
These same principles apply to undesigning. So what’s the difference? My belief is that there isn’t one, that they are one in the same, but often referenced to a specific medium. While certain pieces of art, music and architecture can be characterized as minimalistic, the same principles applied to graphic design are often considered undesigned.
Where this trend started, I am not sure. But while I hear the term used more and more, only time will tell if it’s here to stay. If you have an opinion on the this topic, I encourage you to leave feedback in the comments below or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.