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Tips to Make Your Designs Better

by | Jun 22, 2010 | Articles | 1 comment

When reviewing your designs to make sure that you have created the best design and solution possible for your client, it is good to ask yourself a few questions.

Does it flow well? Does your 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. Each element to lead to the next, and the whole design should lead your eye around the page. There shouldn’t be any main 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, takes away from the overall message, or 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 their information.
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.

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.

Hopefully thinking about these aspects of your designs will help you to improve your design skills. It is great to be able to critique your own work, and the better you are at critique and strengthening your own work, the better your work will naturally become. At the same time, please 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. Your designs want to show a degree of controlled freedom. This is just a basic round up of some things I plan on going further in depth on over the next few weeks.

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