Design Principle: Weakest Link

Weakest Link

Weakest Link tv game show (Photo credit: rickh710)I’ve

I finished reading Universal Principles of Design and thought I’d post about some of the topics covered in it. One reason I like design is that fact that a lot of the basics are common sense, things like alignment and spacing. Other things are obvious, but you never take the time to consider them until someone points them out to you. Anyway, one that jumped out at me toward the end of the book was the idea of a weakest link.

When I hear “weakest link” I’m reminded of the short-lived NBC game show. The idea that the weakest link is a liability and should be removed from a system. After all, shouldn’t that make the overall system stronger? In Universal Principles of Design, the authors point out the fact that the weakest link can also be an asset to your system. Think about the fuse in an electrical system. The fuse is purposefully the weakest link in the system as a safety precaution. That way if the system is overloaded the fuse is destroyed, but the more expensive components in the system are protected, and the overall structure or machine is saved from more extensive damage.

The weakest link principle isn’t one that applies to visual design, but if you’re designing a user interface or some other interactive program it could be a valuable concept to keep in mind. What other examples can you think of where the weakest link in a system is an asset rather than a liability?

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