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What Makes Good Design

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Good design conveys information and communicates ideas where poor design only impairs this communication. The basic principles of design apply to all design disciplines — writing, graphics, art and architecture. The principles of design are tools we use to format the elements of design (colour, shape, texture, etc).  We list below some of the essentials to good design.  However, this is just a concise summary of what we believe are the salient points for you to take note of.


Using balance, design elements or the parts of the final ‘whole image’, are organised to create a whole image that has equilibrium ie an image that is pleasing on the eye.  All images affect us on an emotional level and an unbalanced image will always leave you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable.


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.


Contrast, created when elements are combined, provides necessary variety. Without contrast, even good design can be boring or even worse – ineffectual. While balance and proportion help to maintain cohesiveness, contrast adds interest as well as adding to an image that is pleasing to look at and creates a positive response.


Economy is the same as the “less is more” principle. On average, simplicity tends to emphasise a design’s intent more powerfully than complexity.  Creating an image that is very busy with lots going on, can create confusion in the mind of the viewer resulting in mixed or ineffective messaging.


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