What Constitutes "Good" Design?

Post by 
Stephanie Olson
March 19, 2019

any people think that design is subjective, and that’s true—to a point. There are a patterns and layouts that variably appeal to different audiences. However, in the world of design—both digital and print—there exist aesthetic qualities which, when followed, can maximize the appeal of your work without limiting your brand’s individuality or restricting its creative impact. Addressing what appeals to your target audience involves research, and I’ll approach this in a later article. For now, we’re going to identify and analyze characteristics that consistently improve the effectiveness of your design layout and components.

Draw Attention to What Matters

First, we need to identify the purpose of design. Why does it matter? And who cares whether it’s “good”? Most importantly, how will it improve my visibility, profits, et cetera? There are a myriad of reasons that vary depending on what specifically you’re designing. With user interfaces, for example, your design needs to be laid out in such a way that users can easily follow its flow. Otherwise, there will likely only be confusion, frustration, and in the span of a moment, your user has lost interest in your product. With advertisements, of course, poor design won’t capture anyone’s attention, and your marketing budget will essentially be thrown down the drain. To put it simply, poor design reflects negatively on your company, wastes time and money, and will surely secure you a position behind your competition. See the significance?

Delight Your Audience with What Makes You Unique

So in this new, digital world, how does one leave a lasting impression? There are a few considerations to make first.

What is your identity as a brand? Consider what qualities matter most to your audience. This ties in with market research and having a strong personality for your company. The colors, fonts, and other aesthetic characteristics of your content and user interfaces should align with this identity.

What medium are you using? While many characteristics remain somewhat similar across print and media, the components of your design need to lend themselves to whatever medium for which this piece is being produced. Imagery and proportions will be different, and shapes and material quality for print products contribute to to efficacy of your design.

What is the purpose of this specific design? Your approach should be different for content that’s being used to advertise a product than for posts that will be shown to existing followers, and of course, both of these will differ substantially from designs intended for user interfaces, for example.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you need to ensure your designs keep these in mind and stay consistent.
It’s perfectly wonderful to have a classical or old-school feel distinguishing your brand. What’s not perfectly wonderful is having an out-of-date website that appears to have been pulled from someone’s long-lost 90’s HTML files, or sharing pixelated images on Instagram that somehow cram a dozen different fonts, none of which match any content you’ve posted before. It’s unprofessional and conveys that your company isn’t distinguished or large enough to have someone experienced contribute to what you’re sharing.
That being said, keep these things in mind when having designs created or creating them yourself:
Flat design components are almost always your best bet. On both computers and print, small or complex details may not appear nicely, depending on how the design is being viewed. This approach may be the fastest way to modernizing your designs-without overhauling your brand’s unique style.
Never, ever post too-small images that will be scaled up. You may not want to waste space with unnecessarily large photos, but never use an image that will appear stretched.
Make sure user interfaces are laid out in ways that are easy to understand. Take a step back from what you’re working on and consider whether this layout makes sense. Is attention drawn to where it needs to be? Simplify the process of getting your user to the end goal as much as possible.
Don’t overdo it with the text. Paragraphs are great-use them in your blogs to boost your search engine rankings, but do not overlay your images with lines of text that detract from the content of the photo or design.

Avoid weak combinations of colors or fonts.

You won’t make an impact if your design components are completely forgettable. There’s a substantial difference between having a delicate brand image and simply having weak, unremarkable design components.
All in all, be proud of what you create. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions, and do be open to criticism. Receive it thankfully, adjust your approach, improve, and grow.

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