8 Tips for Tidy Design
Whether you’re a seasoned designer who’s weathered many a fad, or a complete novice who just wants to do the basics properly: these rules rarely change, and sticking to them will help you create crisp, inviting, and elegant design.
Serif typefaces are out. Sans-serif fonts are cleaner and easier to read. Helvetica changed the game with even spacing and amazing legibility; but that doesn’t mean you can use it! Interminable usage has relegated it to the land of the cliché and overdone, along with trite catchphrases and “buzz-words”. What makes for a good font, however, hasn’t shifted one iota: neat spacing, consistency across all characters, and no weird overly-expressive stuff. Fonts are meant to be read, wild font usage is akin to crafting a logo with crazy brush strokes. It’s not cool. It just looks like a child did it.
You may think that it’s cute when your “g’s” dangle their tales below the line and criss-cross your “d’s”, but, for designers it’s a blunder which induces teeth-grinding and extreme anxiety. It just isn’t clean. Correct text treatment relies on text having the space it needs. Not merging into night-shiver causing untidy character-amalgamations.
Rivers may be magnificent features of the natural world but few things ruin design as much as rivers in paragraphs (lines of uneven spacing in text akin to streams). There was, at one time, a massive debate in the design world about fully-justified text. That is, text that’s aligned to both edges to give it an even and square look. The general consensus is… Don’t do it! Please. In getting text square on both edges, it completely destroys the spacing between words, really hurting legibility.
But, designers are a fastidious breed of human beings: not only are we concerned about the space between words, but between the very letters themselves. This brings me to my next point: space. Design needs to breath. It’s not unlike interior design. Clutter confuses the eye and draws it away from the charming aesthetic qualities you want to showcase.
Plenty of white space, particularly where text is involved, makes for elegant, clean and supremely -legible design. Obviously, it depends on the attitude you’re attempting to convey, but if you have elegance and minimalism in mind. In other words great design, then be generous with the white space. It really draws attention to your great copy and graphics.
The images you use severely impact your design. Pixelation is a cardinal sin. Use imagery that’s clean, crisp, inviting, and in-line with the colours you use. If you’re using blue and white on your page, a bright yellow banner image will look completely out of place.
Hierarchy is important. If you get bad service at a restaurant, you know that your best shot at solving the problem is going to the manager. The hierarchy in place guides you to your next port-of-call. Similarly, good design guides your eye to the important bits. This covers making specific words of high importance bold, putting the vital information “above the fold” on a website, including a call to action, and structuring the layout as to guide the viewer. To achieve a good hierarchy, decide what’s important, and let your design show the viewer where to go. It’s worth remembering that human beings generally read from top-to-bottom, and right-to-left
Ever heard of the acronym KISS? (Keep it Simple Stupid). Well with a small adjustment it becomes KICS (Keep it Consistent Stupid). Before you even start, decide on what you want to say, how you want it to make people feel, what colours to use, and what you want it to look like. Then stick to it. It may seem like a good idea to give it some pluck with that electric green, but it’s a terrible idea. Trust me.
That’s it. Now you have everything you need. Go create some beautiful stuff.