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What makes good design?



  • Clearly conveys ideas and information
  • Emphasizes the message
  • useability I.E. Anthropometrics, Error prevention, disability compensation,way-finding, etc.
  • Innovation (be first, better or different)

What constitutes good design?

The message must be clear. Whether a poster, brochure, logo, Web site or even product— the design should emphasize the message.

Good design conveys information and communicates ideas. Poor design impairs this communication by getting in the way. The basic principles of design apply to all design disciplines — writing, graphics, art and architecture, even fashion and poetry. The principles of design are tools we use to format the elements of design (color, shape, texture, etc.). Here are some of the essentials:



Balance is based on the notion, “the whole is the sum of its parts.” Using balance, design elements or the “parts” are organized to create a whole that has equilibrium.



Similar to balance, good proportion maintains an agreeable relation of parts within the whole. It’s the consideration of parts in relation to the whole.

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Contrast, created when elements are combined, provides necessary variety. Without contrast, even good design can be boring (or worse, ineffectual). While balance and proportion help to maintain cohesiveness, contrast adds interest.

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When elements are arranged well, “movement” or the illusion of direction is created. This helps lead the viewer’s eye and can emphasize the design’s intent.



Also known as dominance, this condition exists when design elements are arranged to create a hierarchy of visual importance. For example, the cover of a book might include a title, subtitle, and the author’s name.



Perhaps most important to overall quality of design — as important as emphasis, but overlooked by many designers — is space. Including space (often called white space) in a design provides its other elements with all the characteristics listed above. More often than not, a design fails without space.


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