Know, Direct & Balance: Creating a Design that Works

This post was originally written in 2012 for Studio 30+

We live in a world driven by ceaseless development of the mass media, entertainment and consumer distractions—constant visual interruptions. Our brains multitask to the brink of exhaustion with technology that never seems to stop, barrages of daily imageries that, if we’re lucky, educate and inform for the greater good. Resonating are the winning visuals. Conveying ideas and information while creating comfort to the eye—good design is honest, long-lasting and, above all, unobtrusive. Given the amount of competition, you have less than 10 seconds to create that lasting impression—Less is more. Straightforward simplicity allows for certain designs to be a success – burned into our minds where we don’t have time to question basic aesthetics. But there are a few tricks to start a design down the right path.

Creating a strong design is rooted in research. Hints from the environment you are designing for and how it triggers responses. The community at Studio 30+ is intellectual, bold, strong while fun loving and emotional. The font is young, the ‘30’ is bold, the ‘+’ is obvious. The whitespace that is created around the letters is open and a continuous flow exists where the letters find their balance. The logo design has settled in comfortably, feeling positive – it’s working. A simple testament brought to you by descriptive characteristics.

Beyond the research, a great design should control the visual direction of its viewers. From logos to brochures to websites, etc., if the eye movement isn’t being pulled in strategically with well-placed elements, the design will ultimately fail. As nature commands, the human eye defaults to a left-to-right movement, but proper angles within typography, illustration or pictures, can create comfort for the viewer by showing the eyes where to go. Take this promotional design, for example:

The viewer is welcomed at the top left, and drawn downward. The images contain angles that lead your eyes to the center of the design, while never is there a point where you are being led out of the promo.

Another example is this brochure interior design:

This “centering” effect has been created through the use of photography angles and complementary colors, but even more effective is when photographs of people and faces come into play as in this web capture of CBS News:

The main headline image on this news portal is facing outward – therefore leading your eyes away from the content. Had the image been reversed or the page design modified to accommodate the picture, then your eyes would have found more ease in being drawn into the website.  Always point your viewers in the right direction.

(modified example)

It is very important to understand how your viewers eyes will move around the piece you are designing. As the creator, knowing how to direct visually will have the utmost influence over the functionality of your design.

Aside from the more technical aspects of design, and repeating the “less is more” theory, elegance is also an obvious key player. To quote Wikipedia:

Elegance is a synonym for beauty that has come to acquire the additional connotations of unusual effectiveness and simplicity. It is frequently used as a standard of tastefulness particularly in the areas of visual design, decoration, the sciences, and the esthetics of mathematics. Elegant things exhibit refined grace and dignified propriety.”

In the end, before releasing your visual masterpiece to the overly cluttered arena, make sure that there is visual balance. Naturally, our brains love balance. Even if we seem to live cluttered lives that can be filled with tensions—the appearance of stability is something that we recognize and crave on a subconscious level. It is this ‘visual equilibrium’ that keeps the design grounded. There are several theories and considerations when achieving of balance: Symmetrical or Formal, Asymmetrical or Informal, Rhythm, and Proportion. To read more about these principles, check out this website: http://graphic-design-info.com/article_principles_of_design.php .