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Andrew Stewart

Andrew Stewart

Akendi Alumnus

Common Sense – Is Not That Common

Why The Line “Of Course, It’s Common Sense To Design It That Way,” Is High Praise Indeed

At some point in your career you will present a design that you know is praise-worthy. You’ll have worked hard sorting out all the UX considerations, trade-offs, and implementation complications, yet you will be met with a very lackluster “of course it’s designed that way. It’s common sense; why would you design it any other way?”

Fret Not

At this point it is easy to feel frustrated, after all, you know the hard work that went into the design and you know it was based on a scientific process, not “common sense”!

You know the design took considerable rationalization and consideration of the user, both of which we know is not that common at all.

For some reassurance of this fact, listen to people’s conversations. On the bus, train, or around the water cooler. They are filled with complaints about products and design decision that don’t make sense to them. If you visit product review websites; you’ll see they are filled with all manner of “critical eye” comments.

To this end, we can glean some truth to the adage that “everyone is an art critic,” and why not? Everyone likes what they like; it’s all about them, their tasks, their environment. In other words, their context.

Take Solace

Rather than feeling frustrated that your design is merely “common sense,” I challenge you to change your interpretation of the comment.

You could actually feel the praise you were hoping for: A job well done.  The appearance of common sense is actually very hard work.  If you have received no comments from the “art critics,” you have effectively quieted them, rendered them speechless!

The Compliment

I am certainly not the first to change my thinking and recognize the value of common sense. In fact, if you Google “Common Sense Design” you will get over 60 million hits.


The first several pages of returns are filled with companies branding themselves with the moniker “Common Sense.”

I believe this is intended to give the connotation that they will deliver a common sense design, which, as we have discussed, is not all that common.  The fact that it is not common is actually being used as a market differentiator, a claim of competence; something that you just accomplished!

Pat On The Back

So it’s time to park your frustration that others have not recognized your hard work; in fact, they have given you quite a compliment.

Recognize that you have risen to the challenge and have done a good job.  Give yourself a pat on the back – you have derived common sense from a blank piece of paper! You have, in fact, done something not many can do!

Remember it seems common sense because it was done right. When something is designed well, it seems obvious that that is how it should be.

Andrew Stewart

Andrew Stewart

Akendi Alumnus


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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.