How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.
Good Design is Purposeful
Everyone is a creator in this world, but not everyone is a designer. We all wake up to make decisions throughout the day which shape our lives and influence the lives of others around us. We contribute to what we see in the world. Being aware of one’s power to create and influence, and actively making plans to do so, is what makes one a designer.
We all have different forms of expressions and interpretations of the world around us. How can we be so sure what is “right” and what is “wrong” or what is “good” and what is “bad”? When launching into a discussion about ethics, it is important to establish a foundational premise, so for this topic of good vs. bad design, it’s creative freedom vs. integrity. We have to acknowledge the designer’s freewill the same way we acknowledge any person’s autonomy to solve problems throughout the day. Is it guided by strong moral principles or is it aimlessly free? I think that is the difference between good and bad design. Good design is guided by the elements and principles of design.
Elements of Design
Design elements are the components which can be isolated and defined in any visual work of art. They are the structure of the work and can carry a wide range of messages.
Line art is a mark created by a moving pointed tool. It can be created as simply or as complicated as the designer so chooses.
Color is one of the most powerful design elements with the ability to alter people’s perceptions and mood. Within the color design element, there are three main properties: hue, value and intensity.
Any flat, enclosed area with a length and width is considered to be a shape. Designers use both geometric and organic shapes.
Space is a design element used to create an illusion of depth in an artwork. It can be 2-D, 3-D, negative or positive.
The look and feel of a surface quality is referred to as texture. Texture can be created organically by nature or implied with art.
Objects that have length, width and height, that can be viewed from various angles, existing in space and volume are said to have form.
The degree of lightness or darkness in a work of art is referred to as value.
Principles of Design
Good design displays integrity to the elements of design. The principles of design explain the ways designers use the elements of design to create effective works of art. Referring to the principles of design is helpful when critiquing a project and determining if it is indeed a “good” design.
When a distribution of visual weight on either side of a vertical axis is made causing purposeful symmetry or asymmetry, a well-balanced design is created.
When certain elements stand out to create a purposeful focal point, the design is considered to have emphasis, a principle of good design.
How the eye moves through the composition refers to the rhythm of a design. Honing in on this principle can create an illusion of movement within the artwork.
A design that creates a pattern using visual elements has demonstrated repetition, another strong principle of good design.
The relationship between objects in terms of size including the relation between parts of a whole is the design principle of proportion.
Contrast may refer to juxtaposing different elements of design, such as rough and smooth textures or dark and light values, in order to highlight their differences and create visual interest. An advanced demonstration of this principle of design would be to create a conceptual contrast, where the concept itself is portrayed in a non-traditional, unexpected manor.
The arrangement of elements to give the viewer a feeling that all the parts of the piece form a coherent whole refers to the principle of unity or harmony. A strong (or “good”) composition always honors the principle of unity.
Typography in Advertising
Text, also known as copy, is one of the primary methods of communication in advertising so it is important to not skimp on this aspect of design.
Fonts and Typefaces
A common misconception in typography is that designers carefully choose fonts. In actuality, a typeface is what designers choose. A typeface is a set of fonts, or a “font family,” that contains all the variations of that font. When a designer chooses a font, he ensures it is an actual typeface so there will be various versions of it (regular, bold, italics, condensed, medium, extra bold, etc). In regards to the web, certain typefaces are considered “web safe,” while others are not. There are certain font families that will display on all browsers while other font families won’t. Keep this in mind when working with text for the web.
One of the most important techniques for effectively communicating content is the use of typographic hierarchy. Typographic hierarchy is a system for organizing copywriting that establishes an order of importance within the data, allowing the reader to easily navigate the content and find what is it for which they’re looking. To achieve typographic hierarchy, the designer must experiment with various styling techniques such as size, weight, color, position and contrast.
Professional designers understand the importance of consistency with typography. That explains why we seek typefaces instead of lone fonts. It is better to keep the design consistent with the same general look and feel throughout all the text, as opposed to using several different ones.
Serif and San-Serif
There are serifs and san-serif typefaces. A serif is a slight projection finishing off a stroke whereas a san-serif is a style of type without the serif. Serifs tend to be used in body copy and help make large sections of text easily readable. San-serifs are great for headers and sub-headings. It is a characteristic of modern design, of course as “less is more”. Serifs create a more traditional, sometimes more sophisticated, look and feel.
Leading, Tracking and Kerning
Good designers are well-equipped with technical skills in typography. We understand that the typeface is not provided “ready to go.” The designer needs to go in and hand-refine to perfection using such techniques as leading, tracking and kerning.
Photography in Advertising
Photo manipulation increases in popularity each year as technology advances, and is regularly used in advertising for enhancement, improved storytelling and self-expression. Ever since Adobe Photoshop came to market in 1988, photographers and graphic artists have struggled to define what is ethically appropriate. Conventional adjustments have since come to include such techniques as digitally airbrushing models and drastically altering body image. Even subtle changes can have a profound impact on how we interpret a photograph.
Creativity is limitless. Good design is strategic, used purposefully to achieve communication goals.