How Can You Recognise Good Design From Bad Design?

By Chris Wadsworth

Published in The Source issue 34

Have you ever tried to design something yourself and then wondered why it doesn’t look as good as what professional designers create? Here are a few pointers to help you recognise the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to design.

Bad design

Bad design can be something that’s truly ugly or simply unremarkable. It can hinder communication, project an unprofessional image and, at worst, it can work against your business and lose you opportunities and sales. If bad design can be harmful and good design is an investment it’s important to know how to recognise good design.

Good design

Good design conveys your messages clearly and encourages clients to notice, recognise and react positively to your business. It helps you to present a professional image that is tailored for your business and its clients.

Clear space

Good design is rarely cluttered. Cramming too much information onto a page or screen can put people off even looking at it. It’s important for people to scan information and easily recognise the different messages and find the points that interest them. Don’t see clear space as ‘empty space’ that’s a waste, it prevents visual noise and is important for design to look balanced and work.

Fonts and colour

Too many fonts and different font sizes along with lots of colours is another way to create a bad design. Good design is usually refined and considered with the different elements balanced and complimenting each other. Garish is rarely a word used to describe design that is good.

Alignment and positioning

The relationship between different elements in a design is important for the hierarchy of information and for composition. Many designers will use a grid during the design process to maintain consistency and alignment across the different elements. While the grid is invisible on the finished design, if something falls out of alignment it is clear to see it as a mistake. If elements on a design aren’t aligned then the overall result can look obviously amateur.

Content

You get out what you put in. If low quality images and poorly written copy are used on any design it doesn’t matter how amazing your designer is, the content will diminish the impact and effectiveness of the design. It’s a bit like cooking, give a chef poor quality ingredients and they won’t be able to make a gourmet meal.

The devil is in the detail

This is where professional designers make small changes that have a big effect. Tweaking a design, applying the correct typographic marks (hyphens, dashes, quote marks, etc), ensuring the right balance of information and employing techniques to attract and retain attention are skills only years of practice can hone. If you ever look at a design that doesn’t look right but you don’t know why, it’s usually these details that are letting it down.

Posted 10 November 2017

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