When I first started on this project in January 2020, at the beginning of my last semester of my undergraduate studies, I quite frankly wasn’t sure what form it would ultimately take. For most of the semester, this remained the case. Even as I was designing various mockups (i.e., drawings of apps), I wouldn’t have been able to say anything other than I was working to create something depicting my personal take on mobile app design. The mockups were, for the most part, insulated from the murkiness of my overall vision for what the final form of this project might be. Sketch quickly became the app that I opened to simply experiment with different ideas, in order to discover broader themes that I would apply to mobile app design. As it turned out, discovering and documenting those themes–for both a general audience and designers looking to try something fresh–was the key to unlocking the final doors.
For years, I have kept a tradition of naming personal projects alphabetically after various colors. As it turns out, Wikipedia has an alphabetized list of color names, which is the first thing I turn to when I decide exactly which color I want to name my project after. While I haven’t published all of my personal projects (indicated by whether there’s a link), at the beginning of the semester I already had: Project Aureolin, Project Blue, Project Cadmium, Project Desire, Project Emerald (my final project for gateway!), Project Flame, Project Gunmetal, and Project Harlequin (“Face Finder” production name). So, when it was time to begin working on my capstone project, I needed to choose a color name that began with “I”. I decided to name it “Project Iris,” although I have since dropped the “Project” prefix and have made the “i” lowercase, resulting in simply “iris”.
When I presented this project to my classmates for feedback, Ashley commented that she liked the name as it was “like a lens into the design world”. While I initially hadn’t thought about the name like that, I certainly did afterwards! That idea undoubtedly helped me land on the final form of the project: this website, which showcases “ten guidelines for mobile app design”. I figured this would be the best way to present what I had learned throughout the semester, as it meant aligning the project with the idea of being “a lens into the digital world”. With this, I turned my focus on making iris digestible for a more general audience and providing “guidelines” based on what I had learned as I designed mockups for three different apps: notes, music, and messaging (in that order).
For me, iris provided the opportunity to challenge typical mobile app design norms. It gave me space to create designs that go against the grain; it’s not about being minimalist but rather embracing minimalism in a new way. There’s (what I hope is) a clear focus on minimizing typical barriers that make mobile apps feel distant. Following these guidelines results in app designs that put content front and center. I believe this is how it should be. Apps shouldn’t be designed to “hook” users–they should instead be designed to look like they’re part of a larger “flow”: one that effortlessly washes over a user as they go about their daily life. Although “flow” is itself one of ten guidelines in total, it’s also deeply tied to the other guidelines. And the sum of these guidelines is... iris.