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I strongly believe that the ability and tendency to be delicate in design work is a fundamental and essential skill.

Ian Walton

It’s ironic how things go sometimes, particularly in the ebb and flow of design projects.┬áThree weeks ago we launched this new site during a period of low intensity (to lots of positive feedback and general warmth, thank you!). Yet here I am three weeks later writing our first Journal post since launch.

As we have noticed throughout the years the late Summer and early Autumn can be a slow time as far as client work is concerned. Rightly so; priorities are more family/friends/sun than products/design/business and that in my mind is a good thing for this time of year, there is plenty of time for being serious. So it seemed appropriate to get this site out in the open during our own Indian Summer. We envisaged new posts every day, new work published every other day. It would be a chance to say all those things we want to say and the timing couldn’t be better, we thought.

I swear our amazing clients were holding off on projects until they heard us click the launch button.

What followed launch was a whirlwind of quick-fire projects, all sandwiched into that little Indian Summer I mentioned. All entirely out of character for this time of year. I’m not complaining, absolutely not, but here I am 3 weeks later and a little more tired putting some words down for the first time since launch.

I want to try and capture a thought that has been in my head for the past few months about the importance of delicacy in design. I spend a lot of time thinking about the fundamentals which drive what I design and how I do it. I think many a designer does this, and if not I would recommend that they do. Any time I spend considering these themes, building blocks, foundations (call them what you will) delicacy is something which I always come back to. Of course there are others which I may mention in the future, depending on how coherent this post is by the time I reach the end.

Delicacy is a word which I think is often misinterpreted or not fully understood. When I say delicacy what mean is the act of being delicate. When I say delicate I am referring to a design approach and not to a particular aesthetic. For the purposes of this post and for my own uses I interpret the word delicate as meaning careful, considered and clear.

I strongly believe that the ability and tendency to be delicate in design work is a fundamental and essential skill.

Let me get to the point. I strongly believe that the ability and tendency to be delicate in design work is a fundamental and essential skill. In fact I would go so far as to say that calling it a skill makes it seem too optional, too unimportant. I like to think that being delicate drives the way I work when I am physically designing an object. For me it is more of an overall approach than a skill.

Design is essentially a decision making process. It is a process during which you are constantly making choices be it about form, silhouette, line, weight or colour. In my mind what separates a great designer from a good designer is how they approach these decisions and how much they think about each of them. There is nothing worse than a poorly executed concept, a form that has been created using a heavy hand, or any object which has not received that care and attention it requires. This is where delicacy comes in.

The next time you approach a piece of design, or even a decision within the broader context of a design project, try and take a delicate approach. If it’s a sketch, think about how your line and touch can be incisive and light. If it’s a model, think about how carefully you can shape it and how little you can do to it to make it beautiful. If it’s a presentation, think about how you can describe something in the most concise and simple way.

For me the idea of doing something delicately is to do so with care and thought at every possibility. Even if you don’t integrate this into your everyday way of working I urge you to try it once.