As a product designer, being a voracious reader & consumer of podcasts about design comes with the territory. As ‘mental cross-training’ I don’t solely read about building websites and software, I take in info from all areas. Print & traditional design, industrial design, architecture & the design of physical spaces. It was in one of these reads that an author writing on the topic of minimalism introduced me to the Swedish word lagom.
Lagomroughly translates into “the understanding that I have enough”. Some people have even equated the word with the phrase “less is more”. Several other cultures also have this same philosophy (Finnish has the word sopivasti) of ‘being satisfied’ or ‘not having the desire for more’ or ‘good enough’.
Being aware of lagom has impacted my life in a couple of areas. Most importantly, I’ve increased my awareness of enjoying the ‘journey’. Life changes all the time and that means that the state of lagom really is a moving target. Needs for the physical things I own were lagom when my wife and I were living in a small city apartment and had one car. Now that we have two children, the qualities that make our home lagom are very different. What was lagom for diet and exercise has equally evolved over the last decade.
Mapping the Concept to Design
The connection of seeking lagom at home to designing products became pretty obvious once I realized that it was just using slightly different vocabulary. To me, achieving lagom is a mindset that you can use to filter everything through, from macro (strategy and roadmapping) to micro (designing and delivering product changes to customers).
Balance is the biggest principle — from a healthy work-life balance to workplace balance in regards to the number of meetings you’re required to be in, the number of people on your team, even the amount of different products you’re required to be an expert in to support.
In the context of design-specific activities, lagom can be met through the amount of research you need to build stakeholder trust and push an initiative forward, the processes that you use, and even the amount of design artifacts you need to deliver to keep your team on the right track.
Focusing on value delivered to a user instead of amount of features also starts to weave lagom in your interface. A mindful designer will notice it in the balance of visible and tucked away buttons, features, or filter options. There aren’t so many options that it’s hard to find what’s there, but you’re not missing options that are valuable — even the ‘rarely used’ things are curated in a thoughtful way. Facets like accessibility and cross-platform use also find their way into your products and design system guiding principles.
Zooming in to a specific feature of your product, if you’ve shipped something that’s reliable enough and it’s easy enough to use that your customers are satisfied, it’s ok to be content. User interviews will confirm that they have all of their needs met.
The pursuit of lagom and finding balance is a powerful one. Where are you on your journey?
When he isn’t cheering on his favorite soccer team or playing guitar, Ryan is Director of the Product Design team. Most days, he can be found behind his laptop geeking out about Lean UX and human-centered design practices.