Design, it’s tricky business

By Sophia Goehner

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Design, it’s tricky business

By Sophia Goehner

Both subjective and objective in nature, efficient and effective design means balancing branding, identity, calls to action and aesthetics with graphic and visual design principles, all the while appealing to consumers through relevant messaging and conversation. In other words, good design integrates relevant service narratives with proven and sensible design principles that satisfy aesthetic objectives and at the same time deliver desired consumer messaging – all in visually appealing, clear, concise and user friendly manners.

Design is not just “form follows function”. It’s about user experience — legibility, visual distinction, consistency, contrast, intuitiveness and often minimalism are all factors in successful design. Below are some key pointers for what makes design “good”.

// Visual Distinction. Space is your friend.

If we acknowledge the fact that a large percentage of our physical reality is held within a limitless void or vacuum of space we might begin to appreciate the importance of what we are calling “visual distinction”, in the context of 2D design. Similar to the concept of “visual distinction” is what psychologists, artists, architects and designers call “figure-ground”, which essentially describes the perceptual and relational concept used to denote the distinction of objects from their immediate context.

In web, print or graphic design, the amount of space enclosing the figures in a field-of-context can make or break the way an image or graphic, and it’s messaging, are perceptually consumed. Too little space can make objects feel cramped together on a page thereby overwhelming the user/reader, while too much distinction or space, can create in-cohesiveness and a disjointed read.

The key to mastering “visual distinction” is to create a balance between solid and void, between graphical elements, text, media and the “empty” white-spaces surrounding these elements. This, in turn, creates distinction and legibility — as well as aids in the delivery of your messaging.

// Minimalism. Less is more.

Minimalism in design is about less, not more! When designing messaging, graphics or print and web layouts, displaying less can work in your favor! Don’t be afraid to keep it short and sweet. Concise and simple language and design elements can often help deliver your design objectives better than loads of chaotic graphics and marketing messages. Create clarity and brevity in the form of minimalist messages, graphics, use of color and type. When creating messages say just enough to get your point across. Remember: the attention span of the average online user is about 30–45 seconds. Unless they’ve made a clear commitment to go beyond these 30–45 seconds: less, is definitely more. Minimalism should work in your favor!

// Consistency. Focus is your friend.

Good design is consistent in presentation! Elements flow reliably on a page and the messaging follows predictable patterns so as to allow for a wholistic and complete digestion of information and branding without jostling the attention span and focus of the user. Consistent design means choosing a set of type faces, colors, and font-sizes that are utilized throughout the design to create predictable hierarchies in the way information is delivered. In web design, the majority of layouts have a pretty standard and predictable form: a header, some sort of introduction, service or product descriptions, examples of work, contact information, and a footer. Whatever the organizational layout of your web or graphic design is, it should be populated with just enough consistency to deliver a seamless experience from start to finish. If your design concept breaks traditional form, like being a horizontally scrolling website or some other innovative variation in layout, simply keep in mind that these differences should be populated by some sort of consistency in the way the information is presented. It’s ok to be different but in our experience incorporating logical hierarchies of form, font, text size and color can greatly improve the legibility and consumption of messaging on your website or graphic material.

// Contrast. Make it pop when needed!

An occasional highlight or emphasis in design can create distinctions that point out when and where important information arises. If you care to highlight a particular portion of your design and distinguish it as an important component which requires added attention you can do so by choosing a distinct type face or color which denotes this component as more important than other information. If this occurs more than once in your design make sure to apply a consistent design feature. Don’t stray too far from the consistency you’ve established throughout your design, but make sure it has just the right touch of form, color and font treatments to make it a distinct component that incorporates the importance you wish to give it.

// Intuitiveness. Make elements quickly understood.

The intuitive qualities of your design are of great importance. Make sure the user or reader of your design can interpret what calls to action are being requested or suggested of the user. Links, buttons and forms which require the user to take action, engage or interact with the website or graphic need to be legible and recognized with great ease. You can highlight these through color or styling options. Make sure it’s intuitive for the user so he or she knows what to do once these elements are encountered, thus increasing the user friendliness of your site.

These are just a few pointers on how to make your website or graphic design easily legible and communicative to your consumers. Lastly: have fun, be creative and keep it enjoyable!

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