By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the unsolicited Facebook redesign that’s floating around the creative corners of the internet. Posted on Behance, the work soon made it to the front page of Hacker News, where it was picked up by every publication interested in this sort of thing. It’s just the latest in a litany of unsolicited redesigns which, while fun to look at, are wildly counterproductive.
I read a tweet recently which said: “Unsolicited redesigns are designer fan-fiction.” I chuckled, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. Fan-fiction would be someone writing a side-story to Lord of the Rings. An unsolicited redesign is someone saying that they could write Lord of the Rings better.
We’ve all heard these arguments before; this is nothing new. The major problem with unsolicited redesigns is that they’re by nature uninformed. Without having access to the same user data as Facebook, how could you properly redesign Facebook? Without knowing Facebook’s goals and objectives, how can you design towards them?
Design without a purpose is art. Unsolicited redesigns can be a fun intellectual exercise, but they’re not even true design.
Lest it sound like I’m going too negative, let me clarify: I really enjoyed seeing the Facebook redesign. I clicked the “Appreciate” button along with everyone else, because it does look great, and it does speak in some detail about functional changes as well as aesthetic. Mr. Nerby‘s work here is beautiful and thoughtful, he deserves the publicity he’s getting, and I hope he gets a job offer from Facebook itself. The problem is the concept of an unsolicited redesign itself, and the fact that they are held by some to be anything more than an intellectual exercise.
A few of the more common criticisms I’ve heard of this particular project:
- There are no ads. This version of Facebook would break the company’s main revenue stream.
- Many of Facebook’s users would have trouble adapting to such a radical redesign. It’s likely that Facebook would face a massive outflow of disenchanted users who are unwilling to take the time to learn the new design.
- It may look great with professional photography, but how would the redesigned Facebook look when half the slots in the grid are filled with grainy photos from a mobile phone?
Though these issues are specific to Facebook, they are typical of the barriers standing between unsolicited redesigns and legitimately viable work. Even if an unsolicited redesign addresses every issue like this, it would still be unviable if built around anything but the company’s own objectives. Otherwise, it’s mere self-gratification.
If you’re a designer with some extra time and creative wherewithal, don’t redesign an existing product. If you’re looking for a side project, design something fictional that can stay purely in the realm of intellectual exercise. Better yet, turn your time and talents towards building something real. If you really think you can design a better Facebook, then go out there and build the next big thing.