Why Your Nike’s Redesign is Bad
Many years ago, when you were trying to build your portfolio, you thought about redesigning big brand products to impress others during your interviews. You were just starting your design career, and you did not quite know what you were doing.
Those redesigns you did — I know how much passion and hard work went into them. But every time you went to job interviews, people were telling you that it’s not okay to redesign a big brands product without someone’s permission. You even read countless articles that were telling you why it’s wrong. And most of them had some general and repeatable points:
The images you used weren’t yours;
The typical use of Helvetica / Proxima Nova;
The same random and boring layout you stole from others;
If you take everything out, the only thing you added new is the color red;
This criticism came from senior designers that worked for respected brands with many years in the field. Yet, now when you became a senior designer yourself, you realised that they were wrong. But right only about the technical part. Why? Because they did not explain you the primary cause of why an unsolicited redesign of a well-known brand is a terrible idea.
You focused on the wrong parts
The problem was that you were focusing on beauty and other subjective matters. This created an illusion inside your head that their product was poorly designed. What you should have focused on instead is the actual problem the product had. For example, instead of redesigning Nike’s website, you could have identified what was the real usability problem of it and then suggested a well-thougth solution.
Don’t jump to design straight away. Outline the problem, and write about it. Because a good design begins with words. Then, take the time to think about it. And then write again. Apprently writing about it, structures the your thinking differently.
Take time to think — means actually to take time and think. Read and study the product. If you set yourself on the road of criticising someone’s work, you have to know the product better than the company’s CEO knows it. No, this doesn’t mean to do a basic google search, get a confirmation bias from the first article you read and proceed to work.
Try to understand the context of the company. Once you understood that, you should take a step back and see if the problem you want to solve is the real problem. Does it fit in that context? Could you focus on something else that is more valuable for the end user? Could you maybe combine the current problem with another one? These type of questions were missing from your workflow when you were redesigning Nike’s website.
You see, the problem is actually not in the redesign but in the fact that you don’t know how to be a good critic. Yes, I know how much you hated those classes in school when you were studying other critics that wrote about famous writers. The only question that was in your head at that time was — “Why would I ever need this?”. Well, bad news buddy. You need that now. If you want to redesign something, you have to be able to think like a real critic.
The reason why you were studying those famous critics is mainly to understand that not all people can offer constructive criticism. Few people are able to have an opinion. Some never do.
A critic is a person that was able to put (her)himself out of the context of a particular work. Was able to analyse what the “author” was trying to do, where he was headed and offered improvements only where needed. A critic is like a parent that helps his kid to finish his homework or fix things he can’t do or didn’t realise how to do it.
That’s why articles such as — Nobody Asked for Your Redesign — are wrong and right too. What they fail to tell you is that, if you redesign a product of a famous company such as Facebook or Uber, you need to know the context first. What went into that final product, what was the goal, what were the steps, who did work on, how they worked on it and so on. Once you realised that and saw the problems, then you should offer a suggestion. But doing a complete overhaul of something is, maybe, not the best idea.
Being a good critic is like eating lemons on a daily basis. You never know when you will get to that orange that tastes good. The orange is a great product you redesigned.
Good criticism is discouraging and encouraging at the same time. It makes the author angry for missing specific details, but also helps him to go back, work on it and make everything to prove you wrong. And it’s also one of the most unrewarding jobs because you will never get the credit.
Should you keep doing unsolicited redesigns?
Yes and no. That’s why it’s called mastery. You will achieve it because you know when it is the middle of those two sides.
Bad news, you still struggle with it, but you are much better than you started. Just keep working, whether you redesign or create something out of nothing. Why? Because you need to practice your thinking. But you shouldn’t redesign someones product if you don’t know the context of it. Hayao Miyazaki will give you the best guidance here:
And you have to realise this — most redesigns are bad from a thinking, not a visual one. Visual representation is a subjective form which can be manipulated easily. But the thinking process — that’s where most people fail at. To be able to provide good criticism and then redesign the product, you must have a firm foundation of the design basics and thinking. This should be chosen and mastered by yourself. After that, you do the work based on that.
Your redesign should be a guided suggestion on how to improve things, and not simply take arrogance and pride in redesigning the entire product visually only. See it as a map. You show others how you could choose a different, better and easier path.
In the end, if you will stop asking people if it is right to redesign something or not, you will be better off then asking someone or reading articles about it. Keep working, and we will see each other in the future. Oh yes, and a quick tip here. An alternative to redesigning a big brand product is to create a product from nothing to full execution than redesign someone else’s product (concept, research, prototype, testing). Your thinking and implementation will be different. But please don’t tell that to anyone.
Your future self