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 Last week I saw a talk given by Frank Chimero (via Vimeo) as part of the Build Design Conference.  He spoke about what design means to culture and what it accomplishes.  He suggests that design's purpose is to inform, persuade and delight.  It was the delight portion of his talk that really got me thinking.  In his book, The Shape of Design, Chimero has this to say about delight:

"There is a tendency to think that to delight someone with design is to make them happy. Indeed, the work may do that, but more appropriately, the objective is to produce a memorable experience because of its superior fit. The times that design delights us are memorable because we sense the empathy of the work’s creator. We feel understood, almost as if by using the work, we are stepping into a space designed precisely for us." 
Intrigued at the possibility of delighting a user, I read further to see what a delightful design entailed.
"[The design] empathizes with the audience and their circumstances, surprises in its delivery, and achieves a clarity in what it is trying to say or accomplish. A delightful experience is the overlap of these three things."  
I feel that empathy and clarity are things I try to aim for in my designs, but surprise really piqued my interest.  Not as a gimmick, but as a way to interrupt patterns and day-to-day mundane operations to really engage with someone at their fullest attention.  To take a small (but relevant) tangent, I took Fine Art and Cultural Studies in University.  A neat intersection of these two studies is Guerilla Art.  I loved it specifically because it catches you off guard and snaps you out of your day-to-day living.  When I first saw yarn bombing during those years (and later the Beehive Collective hexagons on James St. North) I was definitely snapped out of my day-to-day thinking.  What started as a walk to get somewhere became an surprise empathetic experience- I wondered about the people who had made the pieces, why they were there and how they made the street look more interesting.
Hexagons on James Street North
(Mixed Media is a great supporter of the Arts, and where factor[e] gets our sketching supplies by the way!)
When I think about my experiences with design, grabbing my attention works much the same way.  I tend to engage more with designs that surprise me and create an empathetic, genuine response (as well as having a clear and useful purpose).  People in general get bored with repetition- a bit of genuine, unexpected detail is key to keeping someone's attention.
It seems to be a matter of paying attention to the smallest of details and putting an extra bit of care to make a product or service become that much more.  It's almost like being a part of an inside joke, but it's accessible to those who want to be in on it instead of an exclusive few.  I've been collecting projects that have caught my attention this way to share with you and illustrate what I mean.
Crazy Uncle Punch
(image via the Dieline)
Crazy Uncle spiked punch is a great example of attention to detail that makes this more than just an alcoholic beverage bottle.  The simple (but well thought out) choice to refer to a pocket square for the cocktail rimming spices is a small detail, but one that really sells the idea of a dandy cocktail home.  It's cheeky, apt and elevates the experience of choosing a drink for the night into something that is "designed precisely" and creates delight.  This might not appeal to all, but it certainly appeals to my love of old-timey drinks and would motivate me to choose it over another beverage.
Lorenzo Verzini has some really neat elements on his page that I quite enjoyed when I found his site.  Though I'm not normally a fan of animated elements on a page, I like that his are so subtle that you have to take a second glance at them to see if they are moving.  They are not just for fun either, they serve a purpose; the blinking eye at the bottom of the page (which actually starts moving more the longer you stay at the top of the page) is what compels the site user to scroll further down the page instead of an animated arrow.  Once the user starts scrolling down, it then becomes clear that the eye is related to the "hello" section where Lorenzo introduces himself.  Other elements are related to each section, a pencil for work, a bird's head for a twitter feed, are pleasing to see.  Lastly, I have to mention the buttons and their hover style.  How neat is that flat reference to a 3D button push?  It's these small details that make this website a delight to use.
Brand Identity for Honest Don's & the Chop Shop
(images via PTARMAK)
Honest Don's & the Chop Shop's branding is one of my favourites for getting a concept really right and delivering perfectly on all those small little delightful details in every piece of the brand.  Designed by PTARMAK, this identity really evokes the sentimental feeling of going to a butcher with my parents when I was little and the feeling I still get today when I go to someone who knows where their meat has come from and who can recommend just the right cut.  It's the difference between going on auto-pilot to the meat area of a supermarket to get a steak and going to a place where you will really think about what meat you are purchasing.  The meat fridges in a supermarket won't have a friendly chat with you, won't tell you to ditch the tenderloin for a lovely marbled rib eye on the BBQ for maximum taste, and it certainly won't be able to tell you exactly what farm your meat was raised in.  Honest Don's and the Chop Shop's branding really encapsulates that traditional butcher experience.
Honest Don's & the Chop Shop logos
Further to creating an experience that you feel was designed just for you and your desire to have that sentimental experience, the branding has all these great little details that are surprisingly delightful.  When I first saw at the Honest Don's logo, I noticed that the shape of the cow was partially created by the cut out of a pig and loved that visual attention to their shapes.  The "take a number" tags that maintain order at the meat counter are here, but in an updated way that is consistent with the brand (it's not just a digitized generic, utilitarian tag which is what we are used to seeing at meat counters).  The paper and twine packaging along with the meat label continues that butcher-appropriate feeling, but again elevates the brand with a well designed tag that must be hand-written, no digitized barcode here.  To round it all out, the Chop Shop butchers, who appear appropriately burly and tattooed, wear the traditional white apron and butcher's cap with the Chop Shop logo and icon complete the butcher shop experience.  The entire concept empathizes with an audience who wants to experience a traditional butcher shop experience with farm fresh meat, it surprises in it's delivery (especially with the negative space pig in the logo) and overall is very clear with what you can expect from this brand.
Have any delightful designs/details that you'd like to share?  Please do, we'd love to see them!  Leave us a comment, tweet it to us, or leave a post on our Facebook page.


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