“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.” — Jared Spool.

‘Invisible’ is used less as a descriptor of what is—or is not—seen and more as an assessment of how smoothly, or intuitively, the design addresses and resolves the user’s problem or need. Oliver Reichenstein describes invisible design as, “Minimal input, maximum output, with minimal conscious thought…”. In its invisibility, the design takes the user’s activities, needs, boundaries, fears, and assumptions into account and integrates into the user’s life in one of two ways:

  • Syncs with the user’s current way of working or living, or;
  • Supports the user’s ideal way of working or living.

In UX, good design showcases the beauty and purpose of the solution through intuitive integration into the user’s natural rhythm. Even when the goal is to change or improve a pattern of behavior, invisible design centers around the essential needs of the audience by creating a seamless flow from thought to action.

Don Norman put it this way, “…good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself.” Through this lens, design is truly invisible when one can engage with the design without becoming conscious of the design, thereby attaining the maximum benefit and outcomes from the design.

The essence of good design is that it feels natural. Invisible design guides the user in how to interact with the solution without a significant learning curve. Dan Rubin put this perfectly, “If you find an element of your interface requires instructions, then you need to redesign it.” When the construction, presentation, interaction, and result feel as comfortable as breathing to the user, this is invisible design.