Few Apple products of recent years have taken the heat the way iPhone X did last year when it arrived with a Notch at the top. If design (beauty) is in the eye of the beholder– and few functions are in front of your eyes more than Notch– then why isn’t design (functionality) given the nod of approval from dissenters?
Good. Bad. Ugly.
If design is both how a product looks and how a product works, and if design– however it is defined– is in the eye of the beholder, then what determines good design? Beauty? Functionality?
Here’s an example from Vlad Savov:
What’s worse than a dongle? No dongle.
Think about that for a moment. Nobody loves dongles because they’re an extra device that fills in an interim role while technology advances. Got USB-A devices to connect to a Mac with a USB-C port? You need a dongle. Sorry. It’s the nature of change. Deal with it. But to decry that the only thing worse than a dongle is no dongle is to ignore the dynamics of change.
Here’s another example, this one from Zach Epstein:
The only thing worse than Google’s giant Pixel 3 XL notch is hiding it
Let me see if I can summarize these design argments:
Dongles are bad. But no dongle is worse. And, the Notch is a terrible design except when it’s hidden and there is no visible Notch, then it’s worse.
Methinks the real problem here is a mutation of the law that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Good functionality is in the eye of the user. A view of the same thing does not always carry the same perspective. Check out The Perspective of Dennis the Menace and you’ll see what I mean.
Those who claim that Notch is ugly do not seem to appreciate what Notch does, therefore, they miss the point about its beauty because functionality, like beauty, is in the eye of the user. Notch packs some great capabilities in a smaller area than what smartphones used before– a large Forehead. Adding Face ID and getting rid of the Home button paved the way for a thin border and no giant Chin. Samsung’s latest smartphones have both Chin and Forehead and an inefficient use of visual space, whereas iPhone’s Notch takes up less space, and allocates the extra for visual icon functions.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then functionality must be in the eye of the user. It’s OK to have a different perspective on the same design function, but you can’t have it both ways.