Designing design: Style and standards


[Part 10 of 12: 1) The science of the artificial 2) function, behaviour structure 3) form follows function, 4) no function in structure, 5) the medium is the message 6) types and schemas 7) aesthetics: attractive things work better 8) managing (great) expectations 9) colour 10) styles and standards  11) design solution spaces 12) conclusions]

Style and standard are words which have so many meanings. Style can mean elegant or distinctive or it can mean a particular way of doing something in the same way that standard can. Standard can also mean the definitive way of doing something.


Marketers use style in the sense of being unique for branding purposes, because if something is stylish or even iconic, consumers are more likely to react favourably and recognise them. As, noted before, we favour attractive things, and remember them, so that next time we will choose them again.

And, because this is how artefacts get onto our radar in the first place before becoming familiar, companies adopt style guides to create stylish artefacts.

Style guides

Newspapers have style guides,so that even though there are many journalists who work for them, there is a consistent tone across each edition. Design companies such as Apple have design guides. A style guide establishes familiarity and memorability, and whilst hopefully improving communication, it’s main goal is to get the user or reader appreciate and trust the consistency it generates.


In the same way,standards are like style guides for product development. Companies use standards that can be universally understood across the company. Following consistent protocols which everyone understands means that product development becomes easier and more efficient. And, by constantly revising standards, any wastage – time, resources, materials – is reduced.

Standards can also lead to innovation such as GSM, which started off as a European initiative to allow mobiles to communicate across Europe. Now 90% of all phones worldwide can communicate. Similarly, thanks to the web standards campaign in 1999, we have W3C and great compatibility across web browsers and mobiles instead of splinternets.

When we are designing we need style and standards so that we can not only improve the world but also communicate that improvement clearly.