When reflecting on the elements of design, you may think of appealing aesthetics or logos, but it requires much more thought and understanding. Design must capture the entire essence of a product while visually communicating a significant message. Digital designs with massive scales are continually changing and impacting millions of lives. Facebooks director of product design, Margaret Gould Stewart, recently discussed the rules of designing at a global scale and the challenges that accompany it.

Challenges of Designing on a Global Scale

Stewart identifies two qualities that are needed to have an effective design on a global scale, audacity and humility. She explains how the designer must have the audacity to believe that their design is impacting the entire world and the humility to understand that. She emphasizes the need to recognize your audience and the impact your design will have on them.

Stewart describes how little things matter when designing for the whole world. An extremely small modification can have a massive impact on the usability and feel of a product. One example of how a tiny design element can make a big impact is the Facebook “like” button. The button was considered outdated and inharmonious with the progression of Facebook’s brand. Facebook decided to spend time modernizing the button with a brand new design. Although you may think redesigning a tiny button would be quick and easy, it took over 280 hours to complete. Stewart goes on to discuss many constraints Facebook had for the design, including height and width parameters. Furthermore, they had to be mindful of numerous languages and careful about using certain gradients or borders.

Stewart also explains the importance in understanding how to design with data. Working on products that millions of people will see, you’ll have incredible amounts of information about how people are using your product. Designers should use this data to influence design decisions.

Designing at a global scale means a constant evolution and improvement of products through hard work, audacity, and humility. A designer typically repeats their process numerous times before creating something truly unique. As Stewart says, design is a blend of art and science.