Design is in the Detail

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It's no coincidence that my favourite shirt is the one with the blue lining on the inside of the cuffs. Or that my favourite trousers have diagonal blue & white stripes on the inside of the waistband. It's all about the detail.

When discussing his design process, Jony Ive referred to this concept of designing the bits that no one sees: 

"It's the 'finishing the back of the drawer' - you can argue that people will never see it and it's very hard to, in any rational sense, describe why it's important but it just seems important." 
– Jony Ive

Steve Jobs used the same analogy as far as 1985 in an interview for Playboy

"When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through"
– Steve Jobs

That aesthetic and dedication to a product can make the difference between something you like, and something you love. It's those details that set them apart - or more specifically, it's that the creators cared enough to make that difference.

 The highly detailed insides of a Patek Phillipe watch. The amount of aesthetic detail included is mind blowing.

The highly detailed insides of a Patek Phillipe watch. The amount of aesthetic detail included is mind blowing.

Patek Philippe released a 10 minute video in 2014 of the entire process behind the creation of one of their iconic watches, the Grandmaster Chime. It's a mesmerising video in every respect, but it's the sheer amount of detail that goes into every "back of the drawer" component that takes your breath away.

To me, this attention to the back of the drawer extends to some of the world's popular tv shows, from Friends to The Big Bang Theory.

 Check out Aquaman on the far-right making the "Live Long and Prosper" sign from Star Trek in The Big Bang Theory.

Check out Aquaman on the far-right making the "Live Long and Prosper" sign from Star Trek in The Big Bang Theory.

On Friends, set designer Greg Grande would get a script on a Friday and then dedicate each week to finding every little detail, adding elements over time to give the apartments this feeling that people were living there and their lives were growing.

It's crazy. On Thursday, it's detail stuff: the VCR, the lamps, picture frames, coffee table books, and flowers.
– Greg Grande

In 2010 when Nike released the new Portugal shirt I remember putting it in the wash, and turning it inside out where to my surprise they had carefully written "A Equipa de todos nós" on the inside of the crest (roughly "The team of all of us"). It was such a nice touch, and one that as far I know was specific to Portugal's shirt. 

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So next time you're thinking of cutting that corner; don't do it. It's these little details, these "back of the drawer" finishing touches that will set your product apart from the rest. Sometimes your users won't even notice them, perhaps until after months of owning them - and it's in those moments that they'll smile and be happy that they made the right choice.

Tom Wood