I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Thanks Michelangelo!

I learned about the Michelangelo/Pope conversation from MetaDesign’s creative director, Brett Wickens.


  • Jason

    gravatarJan 29, 2008
    7:07 am

    Brilliant. The same lessons can and should be applied to writing, music, etc.

  • Tosin Matti

    gravatarJan 29, 2008
    7:50 am

    very interesting article.

  • Diesel

    gravatarJan 29, 2008
    9:10 am

    Makes me feel so bad. Thanks!

  • Joshua Clanton – Design for the WEB

    gravatarJan 29, 2008
    10:13 am

    Great entry! I especially appreciate the idea that good design removes the unnecessary. On the other hand, sometimes one’s goals might require “excess.” But in that case I suppose that excess would be necessary and not removed. (I’m thinking in particular of more baroque design styles intended to create an overwhelming experience.)

    I actually wrote an entry a while ago about 6 Web Design Tips from Leonardo Da Vinci. Most people don’t seem to understand how much of the old masters’ thoughts and practices can be reapplied to modern work.

  • Kristi Holl

    gravatarJan 29, 2008
    4:49 pm

    I agree with Jason. Good writing also needs a plan and vision, and you definitely have to cut out the fluff and extra verbiage.

  • Cesar Torres

    gravatarJan 30, 2008
    7:15 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly about the less is more comment. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) as they always say.

    There’s a reason it’s called a masterpiece.

  • SheriVan

    gravatarJan 31, 2008
    9:22 pm

    Great post, Chanpory! We are so impatient. Throwaway society doesn’t encourage taking the time to create something lasting. “If it isn’t great on the first try, pitch it and start over.” Fortunately, digital media allow reworking of the “block of marble” before the design is, so to speak, set in concrete. But we still must take the time.

  • unstuffed

    gravatarFeb 1, 2008
    12:51 am

    Great post! I love the idea of removing the unnecessary – having been a software geek for a number of years, I get quite twitchy at all the software that’s out there full to bursting with unnecessary Stuff (and with clients who want everything and the kitchen sink in a simple, specific app).

  • Rajaen

    gravatarFeb 16, 2008
    7:32 am

    Article is very helpful for Designer. My antipation was more than posted. I think again it’s good for reader.