Recently we unveiled for you part 1 of our feature 20 Unignorable Rules of Graphic Design adopted from Timothy Samara’s Visual Elements: A Graphic Style Manual. If you missed it you can find it here.
In this second half of the article, I will break down for you ten more unignorable rules that constitute graphic design.
As always remember that these rules aren’t set to never be broken no matter what. Rather, when you do choose to break them do so with a specific intent in mind to better convey your message.
On that note, happy designing and let’s get started!
Artists often create for themselves, but as a designer, you create for everyone else. Your audience must know what it is you are trying to say with those shapes and lines and colors, not just a few ‘enlightened’ folks. Your designs are ultimately being used to promote a concert or relay instructions in a manual or something else communicative. While you should most definitely leave your own creative mark on every piece of work, you will be ultimately judged by how effectively you convey the message, not how pretty your piece looks.
If it’s your intention to make your piece look dull and lifeless, then, by all means, align everything with equal proportions using the same color, shape, and typeface. On the chance, you want to give it some actual life (which hint, hint you should always be doing), move things around and squish some elements together. Give the viewer’s eyes some curves to follow by creating a flowing piece ramp with contrast and density.
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A person’s impression of what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design generally is picked up through education and experience. Accumulated from the multitude of designers and critics who came before them, most criteria inevitably boil down to personal preference.
Some are aesthetically based, like “asymmetry is more beautiful than symmetry,” or “a neutral typeface is all you need.” Other factors are more functional, such as “never reversing a serif typeface on a solid background if it’s less than 10 points.”
All rules are meant to be broken, but they should never be completely ignored. This set is not intended to be a definitive checklist to making good design. It should, however, provide points to be considered in every creative project you take on.
Adapted from Timothy Samara’s Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual, here are
Every, every, every design you ever make must have a meaning behind it. Plain and Simple. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your art is or how creative your graphics look. If your design doesn’t contain a story, an idea or a message you are trying to convey, it isn’t graphic design. It’s just pretty pictures on a page. Tell us something with your work.
Form carries meaning. No matter how simple or abstract that form may be, a form that doesn’t match up communicates conflicting messages to your audience. Experiment with different shapes, details, colors and effects, and explore how they all can work together to support your message. Without keeping your message in mind, your work runs the risk of simply becoming a collage of graphics no longer qualifying as communicative design. Everything the viewer sees should be there for a reason.