Back to Basics: 10 Design Rules that Never Change

There are a lot of movers and shakers in the design field. Every day, creative thinkers establish new trends, which are quickly absorbed by millions of Internet users looking to jump at the latest and greatest (see our blog post 7 Marketing Design Trends to Watch). But behind all the fads is a foundation of design rules that apply in several areas of design, not just advertising and marketing – rules that never change.

  1. Know your (client’s) goals. No matter what you are creating, there is a reason why you are creating it. Start by clearly defining these goals and keep them in mind throughout the design process.
  2. Do your research. Know your audience. Know who they are, what they do, where they live and how they like their eggs. The more you know, the stronger the end result.
  3. Communicate. Design is VISUAL communication. Good design evokes an emotional response and expresses a voice. What are you trying to tell the viewer? How do you want them to react? This is accomplished not only through the words seen on the page, but everything the viewer sees.
  4. Establish hierarchy. Viewers need to know where to look first. It establishes order on a page. Hierarchy is affected by color, size, imagery, graphics and all parts of your layout.
  5. Use no more than 2-3 typefaces in a layout. This helps create clarity and unity in your piece. Explore using different styles within a particular type family. American designer and educator Timothy Samara says it well: “A single type family with a variety of weights and italics should be enough all by itself; adding a second is nice for texture but don’t overdo it. Too many typefaces are distracting and self-conscious and might confuse or tire the reader.”
  6. Pick typefaces that reflect your goals. If a client wants something rugged and masculine, Edwardian script would not be the best solution.
  7. NEVER, EVER stretch or condense a font. If you want a condensed typeface, find a typeface that has a condensed style already created.
  8. Use a grid. It provides a framework for the base structure of a design. Even in Web design, grids are fundamental to provide clarity for the user. In publication design, it’s crucial to the structure and flow of the piece.
  9. Colors matter. There is a reason why people study color theory. Colors hold a lot of power. When selecting a color, assess the tone, location and message of the piece.
  10. Make it new! In the words of Ron Arad, architect and industrial designer, “To design is to do things that did not exist before I designed them.”

Know the rules before you break the rules. David Jury, author of“About Face: Reviving the Rules of Typography,” sums it up by stating,“Rules can be broken – but never ignored.”

See some of our work.

“Never use White Type on a Black Background: And 50 other Ridiculous Design Rules”
“Graphic Design The New Basics”by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips

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