How do most decisions get made? Seriously, I’m asking because I don’t actually know the answer. Particularly when designing something primarily for the use or benefit of others. Like a website, or a bicycle, or a party. You have to deal with dozens of micro choices that have a much greater effect on the entirety of an experience than their individual parts. Like the always-crucial dining table centerpieces at weddings. The bigger, the bolder, the better, right?
Seems pretty straightforward – make sure they match the overall decor colors and style, set ’em up to shine in pictures, and position them as conversation starters amongst guests. I’m guessing this was the thought behind the centerpieces at a wedding I attended this weekend. But the reality is that we took our seats at Table 10, introduced ourselves to our table mates, and then noticed there was no way I could see the two people seated across from me because the centerpiece was blocking our view. This made conversation quite awkward, but nobody wanted to move the centerpiece for fear of screwing up the pictures or the overall ambiance of the room.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. – Steve Jobs
The Centerpiece Conundrum represents classically flawed thinking when it comes to a user’s experience with your product. Maybe the organizers began their design thinking heavily bent on aesthetics and backed themselves into a corner without knowing it. Or maybe they fell in love with a look and never confronted the potential downsides. Either way, a walk around the room pretending to be a wedding guest may have prevented the issues we experienced.