57 years ago today, the US launched Vanguard II, the world’s first weather satellite, into orbit. As of today, the satellite is still in space tracking cloud cover in 18-19 days stretches. It is estimated that due to its design it can last another 300 years in orbit.
It got me thinking about good design and what it means to make something long-lasting.
Dieter Rams is noted for stating, “good design is long-lasting,” as one of his principles of good design. We all know that if you build something with quality parts and with care, it will last long and be more useful, but how does that translate to graphically, and even more importantly, to the digital world?
The mediums of the web and digital design haven’t been around or developed enough to test out Rams’ theory of long-lasting design. Also, due to our 24-hour news cycle habits, it’s second nature to ignore things that happened yesterday and focus on the new trending topics of today. Styles, trends, and layouts are constantly coming and going.
You can guesstimate, rather accurately, what year a site was made just by looking at its features. That is due to certain styles only lasting a couple of years at most. How can something ever be considered long-lasting in an ever-changing, freeform, fluid environment such as the digital world?
Maybe we need to change our definition of long-lasting? Maybe Rams’ principles needs to be updated? What if a year or two is actually a long time on the web? Maybe we’ve had very successful designs, but our concept of longevity needs to adapt for the quick evolution of the web?
Or perhaps Rams was right the whole time and we have yet to see truly good design on the web that transcends beyond being the latest fad?