Seeing The Details

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Chris Coyier on

When a great musician hears a great song, what do they hear? I am not a great musician so I can only speculate. I would guess that they listen for the emotion behind the song. Great songs are great because of their delivery of honest emotion, in any genre. I also think they listen for the intangibles. They try and put their fingers on the elusive qualities and little details that make a great song great.

I think this is very similar to how great designers see great designs.

But let’s get back to the musician for a second.

To an outsider observing this great musician analyzing a great song, they might oooh-and-ahhh at their ability to quickly dissect the key, melody, or chord changes. But to the musician, these things likely feel trivial. That is no problem for them. That is their trade. Of course they know what key it’s in. What is more important is that emotion, that atmosphere, those little details that took the song to greatness.

Now what about a great designer looking at a great design? I think the designer looks for the same things the musician does. The emotion. The details. I think they try to put their finger on the sometimes elusive qualities that make a great design great. The outside observer watching this designer break down the design might oooh-and-ahhh at the designers ability to replicate it, or analyze the technology used to make it happen. But the designer likely feels those things are trivial. Of course they can replicate it. Of course they can figure out the fancy CSS tricks or Photoshop effects that made it happen. That is their trade. More importantly though, is the designers ability to understand the details that took the design to greatness.


Do you think this is true? Or is perhaps the opposite true? Great creators are great because of their ability to see their creations as an untrained layperson would.