17 Comments // Filed in Featured / Business / Design / Web
It’s interesting that while many of us rant about how some of our clients don’t understand the choices we make in a project, it’s startling to see that a lot of “designers” out there don’t understand their own choices, either. It’s making design decisions without justifying why something is placed somewhere, or choosing things almost “instinctively” or arbitrarily.
Yes, great designers definitely have a sharper eye than most, but a lot of their choices are less “instinctive” than most people realise — there is research involved, education in design history, various projects under their belt, etc — that helps designers make better decisions that seem “automatic.” You don’t necessarily need to have a formal design education background to grasp and apply universal design concepts that fiddle with line, space, proximity, colour, type, and images; that, on top of figuring out context and relevancy to the audience and the times.
And yet, there’s this strange reluctance I’ve noticed in designers trying to justify their decisions without resorting to the age old “it just looks good.” If you’re an artist or hobbyist, or you’re doing something for fun, that excuse may fly, but in a professional industry: no. Clients can be fickle, and if you don’t have strong reasons to back up your design, you could quickly fall into the quicksand that is multiple client revisions with no purpose. Justifying your design decisions helps establish yourself an authority on the subject.
A good exercise to help hone your critical design thinking skills is to take one of your favourite site designs and break it down. How can you break it down? Here are some suggestions:
- Count and write down how many typefaces and styles the site uses
- Recognize the size differences between the type elements
- Ask yourself why they chose those specific typefaces (e.g. Serif generally is more authoritative and old-fashioned, while sans-serif has a more contemporary flavour)
- Identify “decorative” or superfluous assets that enhance the design
- Identify “decorative” or superfluous assets that hinder the design
- Recognize the colour palette — is it consistent?
- Is there a theme or metaphor?
- Go through the layout and number each element in the order of importance in the layout. After, see if the way it’s laid out or emphasized is parallel to the priority of information.
- Ask “Who is the audience of this layout? Is it appropriate? Why or why not?”
- Ask “Is this relevant?”
The above will be a bit of a starting point to help you recognize choices good designers make — and why. Justify your design decisions, and more people will take you, as a designer, seriously.