Creating Awesome Designs
Awesome designs don’t just fall out of the sky. You have to satisfy the needs and objectives of your client. You must do this while making everything aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. When reviewing your designs to make sure that you have created the best design solution possible for your client, it is good to ask yourself a few questions. These questions will help you clarify whether or not you have satisfied all of your design goals. Asking yourself these 4 questions will turn your mediocre designs into awesome designs.
Does the design flow well? Does my design have a good rhythm?
The overall flow and movement of your design can make or break the entire piece. If your design doesn’t flow well your viewer may miss vital information, or the message may not make sense. You haven’t created an awesome design if no one gets the message. That is the whole point of a design in the first place. You must deliver the message and make it stick. Each element should lead to the next, and the whole design should lead your eye around the page. There shouldn’t be any areas where you visually get hung up. The traditional way to do this is the Z pattern, where you start at the top left of the viewing area, and you flow from left to right and down left and to the right, in the shape of a “Z”. Now, if anyone is reading this in another country that reads from the right and to the left, then simply apply the same rules, but backwards to suit your needs.
Is everything presented in an organized and easy-to-understand manner? Is there anything present that causes confusion to the message?
Sometimes we inadvertently place design elements in our work that aren’t necessary, but just look good. It is fine to create design work that is beautiful, but if you place something in your design that is distracting, it takes away from the overall message. If it doesn’t belong with the overall look and feel, then the message can get lost, or the impact is lessened. There is a phrase that I once heard from Milton Glaser that makes more sense than less is more. He says something brilliant on his sight that, since I have read it, has always stuck with me. He says “Just enough is more.” It basically means that you put everything that is needed, and add nothing more, and no filler content. This brings me to the next point:
Is there a decent amount of negative space?
Clutter kills the impact of a design. The point of design is not to cram as much garbage onto one page or screen as possible, it is to organize and break down information into practical pieces that are easy to understand. Once, I did a redesign for an animal shelter, and they had several logos and sponsors, icons and different elements that needed to be included. The current design had them scattered about with no real rhyme or reason, so in the redesign, the logos and sponsors were featured in a grid, in their own designated area. This was years ago and the site has been redesigned since then, but they still use the overall grid that I implemented, because it was a simple way to organize multiple logos.
In order for elements to stand out, they need to have a proper amount of negative space around them. There can be a lot of information, but if a design is well organized, it is amazing how much information can be placed on an 8-1/2″ x 11″ page. That is why well designed flyers are so effective. You can convey a lot of information easily and on a single page, which can be folded into a brochure, or a bi-fold design. Awesome designs can organize a lot of information efficiently.
The example above is a quote by Beck, a famous musician. The way that the text is stacked and surrounded by a lot of negative space makes you want to read it more. The mix of red and black, combined with the tall, thin column beckons for you to read it and find out what it is. This is one of those awesome designs where you can’t help but to take notice.
Is there an element of texture to the design?
Texture doesn’t just mean a background texture or a photo. It can be the text, or a pattern. I personally like to think of text as a texture element. The leading between each line of text can create a distinct overall texture. Leading is the space between each line of text. The rule of thumb is that each line of text should have at least 2 points more leading than the overall size of the text. For example if your text is 12pt type, then the leading between each line should be at least 14pt. Some people break this rule on purpose, and some give it even more space than what is required. This can be found in more luxurious type situations, such as in well designed, up-scale design books, or books that don’t have an extremely large amount of text. The smaller the value of leading, the more dense the texture created by the text appears to be. The higher the leading value is, the grayer, or lighter the texture appears to be. This also is determined by the thickness of the typeface used and the x-height. Awesome designs always take the impact of their text into consideration.
Hopefully thinking about these aspects of your projects will help you to create awesome designs. It is great to be able to critique your own work, and the better you are at critiquing and strengthening your own work, the better your work will naturally become. At the same time, be sure to remember to not be overly critical of your work. You don’t want to discourage yourself from creative freedom, and your also don’t want to over work your designs. The most awesome designs show a degree of controlled freedom.
When you review your projects, what are some things that you ask yourself to make sure you’ve done the best job? Do you have a check list to help you create awesome designs? Share your workflow tips with us in the comments section below.