What It Takes to Create Good Design

Here at HOW, I like to think that I’m completely immersed in good design. Probably because we have the luxury of curating and showcasing content from the best in the industry. I often remind myself that the world at large is amassed with “bad design” and less-than-optimal user experience—a reality interactive mogul Geoff Teehan reinforced recently when discussing the “state of in-car UX”

That’s what’s so compelling about great designers: They actually want to change the world through their vocation, and they care about the details. The desire for good design goes beyond beauty. It encompasses the user, interface and the overall experience. Fellow designers spanning print to digital media who cross our paths at HOW—like Teehan—demonstrate again and again that they care about making the world more aesthetically and functionally sound.

good design

So how does this happen? How do we, as designers, contribute to the world at large through smarter, more elegant design? Sometimes “good design” means taking a new approach, taking risks and moving beyond the large agency model.

Sometimes Good Design Means Stepping Out

When Teehan and longtime creative comrade and coworker Jon Lax joined forces to found Teehan+Lax in 2002, they wanted to go off the tracks to better understand audiences and craft designs to meet these needs. It was the beginning of something bigger than the traditional agency experience, but it meant starting a brand new venture with only two other coworkers and a shared office. They needed to step out.

Good Design Requires Us to Be Nimble and Flexible

Out of this shared office, the small but mighty team of four built a design empire: eliminating project managers and other go-between roles, Teehan and company could truly assess client needs and work closely to achieve their goals. They could ask clients to think bigger.

Operating as an “un-agency” in many ways, Teehan and Lax saw an opportunity to offer clients a smaller, more focused solution with front end design—in a space and time where this was what the market yearned for. Pioneering user experience, Teehan+Lax offered new, viable solutions with less drama, less red tape and more results.

Remove the middleman and let the designer talk. At the crux of what Teehan+Lax stands for lies an invitation for designers to take their seats at the table. Let’s stop hiding in the corner or cube and be part of the conversation. We have something to say, so dive into the early, conceptual phases of projects. This is the Teehan+Lax approach.

Teehan+Lax’s rich history continues to inspire us, as they consistently produce the kinds of thoughtful, necessary experiences the world needs.

If you ever spend time on Medium or find yourself falling in love with Prismatic, you’re experiencing first-hand the impact of Teehan+Lax’s good design. By creating for ANY screen, from brand new concepts to reimagining and improving existing products, they remove barriers and constraints to dive deeper into the possibilities of design. The firm of now 40 strong is committed to standing out from the crowded landscape of large digital design agencies by staying small and true to their beginnings, by creating authentic experiences and by introducing relevant products to the market.


This fall, Geoff Teehan takes the HOW Interactive Design Conference stage in Washington D.C. to share more of his incredible story and bestow his wisdom on a captive audience of working professionals. You’ll be inspired, yes. That’s one of HOW’s signature moves. (And we’re very good at it.) Be prepared to also soak up practical advice—those tactical takeaways to run with back at the office and put into practice. Teehan has some of those, too.

Don’t forget to register by June 30 and take advantage of $200 in Early-Bird savings. And check out this year’s two other HIDC events—Chicago, October 19 – 21 and San Francisco, November 17 – 19.