5 Ways Design is Like a Rom-Com


July 31, 2022

September 21, 2022

In our "Design Is Like a Movie" series, we examine the surprising connections between well-established film tropes and digital design. Yup. There's a lot more here than you might think.

It’s February. And that means hearts, chocolate, and a lot of movies about love. Here at Matic, we believe that the classic rom-com is often a bit underrated. When carefully considered, there’s actually plenty that we can learn—corny pick-up lines and bad acting aside.

Team pairing is a growing trend—and for good reason. This type of hiring promotes business stability and growth during an unprecedented time. Here are four reasons that team pairing might just be the secret weapon your company needs to stay ahead in the marketplace.

1. There’s usually a protagonist who is skeptical about true love.

In design: Great design comes from exploration, inquiry, plus several rounds of trial-and-error.

Pretty Woman begins with a prostitute, the indelible Julia Roberts, who needs a job, not a prince. Countless other rom-coms follow the same pattern: A protagonist who is often overtly skeptical of romance, or who has been burned one too many times, stumbles into a situation with a potential paramour. And rarely—if ever—do they have a “love at first sight” encounter.

All designers should be similarly skeptical of the work they do. We don’t mean in a self-loathing way—but in a curious, open-minded, constantly questioning way. Good designs can stand up under scrutiny, and good designers understand that close inspection is all part of the process.

2. ...But there’s always a plucky sidekick to remind them what it’s all about.

In design: It takes a team.

Everybody needs a cheerleader. In Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan’s hapless radio listener gets advice from Rosie O’Donnell. In My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julia Roberts ignores the well-intentioned words of Dermot Mulroney’s character. The point is: Design doesn’t exist in a silo.

And since creatives are often their own biggest critic, sometimes it takes another team member to encourage revisiting a first draft, or to simply point out: “This is actually pretty good.” When we get to be too critical of our work, we always run the risk of throwing out everything—the good and the bad—and that’s where a team can parse between the two. Moral of the story: Listen to your cheerleader, they’re probably on to something.

3. There’s always a love interest who seems too good to be true.

In design: There’s always a red herring.

Sometimes, falling in love is about letting go of what you thought perfection was—and making room for something totally new. In While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullock’s character thinks she loves the wealthy and handsome businessman played by Peter Gallagher. In the end, it’s the flannel-clad Bill Pullman she ends up falling for.

Often, we go into a project with a preconceived notion about what will work or what an audience wants to see. But this is where discovery, user testing, and following the data are vital. If a design seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The ideal you have in your head rarely manifests itself that way on the page—but that’s a good thing. Keeping an open mind about the creative process will always yield a better result than clinging to an idea that is no longer working, just because you don’t want to give it up.

4. Grand gestures or over-the-top displays of affection never go as planned.

In design: Keep it elegant. Keep it understated.

We all remember the famous scene from the first Sex and the City film where Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw smacks her groom repeatedly with an oversized bouquet on the day of their wedding after he makes a run for it. The wedding had everything the show became synonymous with: Gorgeous fashion, a stunning NYC location, over-the-top decor—and yet the whole wedding fell flat without the groom.

Most rom-coms follow suit: A grand romantic gesture with the best intentions usually goes awry. It’s a reminder that sometimes, simple is best. The best designs are the ones that clearly communicate an idea, guide a user, or solve a problem. Design should be smart, uncluttered, and absolutely refined.

5. There’s always a happy ending.

In design: There’s always a happy ending.

Whether it’s a marriage proposal (Crazy Rich Asians), a wedding (The Wedding Singer), holding hands on a flight (Say Anything), or an escape to Mexico (True Romance*), all the best rom-coms wrap up everything to deliver a happy ending.

It works the same way in creative projects. Often times, there’s compromise along the way—whether it comes from the designer, the developer, the client, or someone else entirely—but in the end, you aren’t designing for yourself, so you have to find some common ground and find peace in what you can positively affect. And most of the time, this is how the best product is actually achieved.

*Editor’s note: OK, we’ll admit True Romance isn’t a rom-com, but it has romance and it has comedy.