Pretty is good, Functional is better
Now that I am back in my hometown, I often joke that everything is a challenge here: broadband quality, transportation, power, water supply, and the list goes on. Not so much to complain, but to observe how people are dealing with these challenges. Because people are actually solving these problems in their own way. These solutions may lack structure in the way they were designed, are often not pretty at all, but all have one thing in common: they do very well what they are intended to do for the people who need them. They work, so are functional.
An amazing example of this functional design is covered motorbike taxis.
My hometown Douala has an average temperature of 35˚ Celsius, with very humid conditions. When not enduring these in the hot season, Douala dwellers have to live with incredibly heavy rains, especially between June and September. Despite these difficult weather conditions, Douala dwellers have to commute, work, go out... In short, they need to move around the city, well known for its traffic madness.
Motorbikes don't have roofs, so their riders and passengers are exposed to these rude weather conditions. They sacrifice this comfort for the convenience of moving around the city quite easily, compared to a car. To solve these problems, it's not uncommon to see bikes with some forms of misshapen umbrellas. Bike riders transform umbrellas from a circular to a rounded rectangular-ish shape to cover the whole bike. It certainly is not pretty at all. But it does solve a real problem, and it does it quite well for the people who need it!
I am truly amazed since I moved back (5 months ago now) by how creative people are here. Well educated, they may not be. Properly and formally trained, most people are not. Yet, the level of creativity and ingenuity in designing solutions to their daily problems is hard to beat. From my own perspective as a returnee, It is humbling to witness and experience these daily, and a powerful source of design inspiration as well.
Good design does not necessarily mean a visually appealing product. First and foremost, it means a product or service that works the way it's expected to work from its user' perspective. It means a product or service that solves people's problems. Because pretty is good, but functional is better.
Photo Credit: Canada Cameroun