Good Design

June 30, 2011


There are lots of components to good design. When I used to present sketches, concepts and designs to my sister (also my former creative director and boss) for review she would always ask me “Does it make sense?” and “Is it special?” Good design also always offers a solution to a problem. And content is key. I’ve spent a good part of my life and have dedicated my livelihood to thinking about and creating good design. And trust me, it’s taken lots of practice and lots of failure to get to a point where I feel comfortable with my skills and point-of-view.

I’ve been asked to critique work of others and along with the mantra “Does it make sense? Is it special?” Good design is absolutely subjective but when analyzing a composition I consider the following:

Good typography is the number one factor when it comes to creating good design. If your type is an afterthought it will reflect poorly on your design. And it’s not always just about picking a good font (though, beautifully designed typefaces do help). It’s about how you compose the type on the page. There are thousands of books dedicated to what makes good typography – it’s important.

Okay, my professors in college were constantly talking about The Grid and I had no idea what they were talking about. I mean, they spoke of The Grid as if there was some sort of manual that was assigned to us upon entering art school that I somehow missed.

Well, years later the concept of The Grid clicked. Basically, it means that all of your design components should have an underlying grid – an invisible foundation to build upon. It’s okay to break from The Grid but it had better be intentional and executed with care. Otherwise, your design will look sloppy.

Good photography and great illustrations definitely elevate the overall look and feel of a design. But that said, there are definitely tricks to sprucing up not-so-good photography such as color correction and creative cropping. Never let a bad client logo or bad photography be an excuse for a bad design.

This is probably the most subjective of all the elements that make up good design. I prefer to design with a limited color palette and there are some color combinations I refuse to touch (like navy blue, silver and black together). The use of color (or lack thereof) is crucial to good design. I find that my painting background helped enormously when it comes to using color in my designs.

So everything above I consider the building blocks of good design. But the magic is the extra oomph. It’s the something special that takes a design from technically good to something that you can feel in your heart. The magic is the emotion and it’s hard to pinpoint where it comes from and exactly where it lives in the design. But in really great design The Magic is always there.

What do you all think? What for you are the most important components of good design and art (graphic or otherwise)?

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