Michael Martin: Why We Make the Things We Make

“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.”

Charles Eames

Designing with a purpose. Isn’t that the key to making things?

Michael Martin, managing partner at Code and Theory, questioned why we make the things we make.


2000-2008: Publishers started to go online.
2008-2012: Because of the new digital age, print publications began to struggle. Content started to be replicated, startup publishers emerged and we were faced with the problem of distinguishing news from information.
2013-present: Now, we are in a “digital first” age where the structure and makeup of a system matters more than the way it looks.

Consumption and behavior have expanded over time. Martin says users prefer to explore visually. They want endless streams like Twitter and Facebook to give them what they expect, such as video and seamless integration in any environment.  Bringing all of this to a publication is essential in success.

With the evolution of the digital age,  we have to expect storytelling to evolve. This is challenging to do in a responsive environment, but it will take what Martin calls an “integrated strategy” to create a balanced experience.

Lastly, we are in a time when users expect brands to be a part of relevant cultural conversations which change out thinking.


“News is air, therefore news must be unique”

The content of what we create should determine how we design. Martin uses the following examples as ways we should be evolving in the digital age:

— Location
— Duration
— Day of the week
— Platform in which the content will be presented

So, making the design scalable for not only the platform but also the reader is what we should aim for. But the process of making things is iterative: Ongoing and forever changing.

Further reading

The SND Q+A with Michael Martin
Code and Theory: Things We Make