After marveling at Michelangelo’s statue of Goliath-vanquishing David, the Pope asked the sculptor, “How do you know what to cut away?”
Michelangelo’s reply? “It’s simple. I just remove everything that doesn’t look like David.”
While I’m not totally sure of its accuracy, the conversation still offers three very sage design lessons:
Good design starts with a goal
Before David could physically exist, it had to first exist in Michelangelo’s mind. In other words, a mental model, a goal. Michelangelo then prototyped through sketches and, presumably, miniature models of the final David. Why not just go with your gut? Because there are no Undos when carving a block of marble.
Good design removes the unneccesary
Instead of piling on more and more doodads and features on your design, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” and “What can I take away and still achieve my goal?.” Remember, less is more.
Good design isn’t magic
Since we have such fancy computers now, good design must happen with just the press of a button. Not. Like Michelangelo’s David, design masterpieces don’t magically take form overnight. It takes tons of time, prototyping, and iteration. So how long did it take Michelangelo to sculpt David? Three years.
I learned about the Michelangelo/Pope conversation from MetaDesign’s creative director, Brett Wickens.