A B C of Design

Grid: Advantages and Disadvantages


Grids give a basic sense of organization to the design and although can be overused which make the design more geometrical.

1. Allow you to plan your design
2. Helps you balance the design by using different weight at different parts of the grid
3. Give simplicity to your design and make it easily understandible by average viewers
4. Great for geometric designs
5. A good use of grid design can add a lot of visual interest
6. Grid design is also used effectively when taking photographs (see example below)

1. Give a mechanical look to the design
2. Can be easily overused
3. Keeps you in the box rather than “out of the box” thinking
4. Grid design might have negative effect on aesthetic design or abstract art

They should be definetly used for all the advantages it provide, and most important of all is it give you a good starting point for your design, but if the designer uses that just to base and then experiment by coming out of it can create rather interesting designs.

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How To Critique


What is a critique?

A critique is defined as input on the quality and end result of a creative assignment and is related to the student’s performance. Critiques are provided by the student’s professor and peers in the classroom. Aspects of the critique should include: craftsmanship, style, message, purpose, design, functionality, etc. A successful critique should include areas of success, as well as areas of improvement, and should suggest methods for achieving such improvement. Effective critiques are based on demonstrated knowledge of the course competencies, not just personal opinion.

Purpose of a critique:

A good critique will allow students to see what others see in their assignment. The student receiving the critique will be able to determine if the purpose of the assignment was successfully achieved. Using professional language, students will develop the ability to articulate and defend opinions about each other’s work.

How to conduct an effective critique:

Use the “sandwiching” approach when conducting a critique, summarized as follows:
Provide positive feedback.
Find something positive to say about the work.
Define specific aspects of the work you are critiquing.
Be more analytical and less of a cheerleader. Don’t just say “I loved it!” or “good job!”
Provide constructive suggestions for improvements.
Address the technical and aesthetic aspects related to the assignment; what works and what doesn’t work. Cite sources (lecture notes, course textbooks, and additional research) whenever appropriate.
Place your comments in the first person, such as, “I think this area could use . . .” rather than, “You should change this because . . .”
If you are having trouble figuring out what language to use, refer back to the readings and lecture notes to support your critique.
Close the critique by pointing out something positive again and note improvements in progress over time.
Use encouraging words, such as, “This was successful because . . .” or “You achieved a composition that clearly fulfills what the problem was about.”
If someone is clearly struggling in the class, be mindful of his/her confidence and be extra careful with your suggestions.
Throughout this course, you will see lots of improvement in your own work and your fellow students’ work. Be sure to let each other know.

Other things to remember:

Trust your instincts and eyes when communicating your ideas—you probably know more than you think you do.
The better you can verbalize what you think about other students’ work, the better you will be able to correct your own.
Use the vocabulary and concepts you are learning in class.
Always be respectful, courteous, and supportive.

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Why do you think a designer would develop more than one possible design solution at a time?


The designer should always refine more than one idea because, because of a number of reasons

1. You as a designer can have a different perspective on what better and the client from customer’s perspective think differently.
2. Having few options also give the client a comfortable choice to select
3. The client gets an idea that you have done your homework and tried all possible options, this builds more confidence and allow client to choose.
4. Having refined multiple designs will give the designer also some space and time to sleep on the final design and see clearly as they evolve more.
5. Due to additional information which might come later, like location where the design will be used or even the immediate environment where the product will be used or even the stereotypes of the customers can affect the design at the later stage, so having multiple options give the designer to fallback to other options instead of going back to the whiteboard.
6. Also multiple designs help designer to be more creative and flexible in designing and these other designs are very useful in a number of ways.
a> Designer can use effective parts of other designs in the main design to make it even more effective
b> Sometimes other designs can be used to supplement the main design

Please find example 1 for a set of logos which were taken as the final designs to the client for the website interviewinfo.net.
example1-Logo design by Ariel Manigsaca – Zamboanga, Philippines, http://interviewinfo.net/photos/logos/default.aspx, He created these 5 years ago.

This begs the question how many design is good enough ?

Too many solutions are not too bad if the progress is incremental, sometimes too many solutions at the same time can confuse a client more, than helping him, based on my own experience, the approach which normally gets good result is when you show a client 3-4 design and then listen to him, get his feedback, learn from the review and then create some more. This way every design is incremental, it is really necessary to ‘listen’ to him carefully.

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How do you decide which concepts are best?


The answer is by asking questions . . .

Is there a concept?

Is the design a collection of unrelated parts, or do all of the design elements work to support a single clear message or idea?

Is it original?

Have you seen it before? Is it too obvious a solution? Avoid clichés. They are boring.

Is the concept appropriate?

Could your concept offend potential customers? Do the associations your idea conjures up and the retailer’s image “fit” together?

Is the concept as clearly expressed as possible?

Are all the elements needed, or can some be removed without weakening the message? Does the design feel incomplete?

Is there a clear visual hierarchy?

Identify the dominant, subdominant, and subordinate design elements. Would the concept be clearer with a different dominant or subdominant element, etc.?

Does the use of negative space help the design?

Is it too crowded, or does it feel empty? Do some areas of space look too tight? Is the shape of the negative space simple and comfortable to look at, or does it feel “chopped up”? Does the negative space divide the design in half?

Are all the design elements as good as they can be?

Does anything need to be bigger, smaller, taller, shorter, wider, narrower, etc.? Are the colors saturated enough or too saturated? Is there enough value contrast? Are the visual textures and patterns appropriate and working together? Are the materials and typefaces to be used appropriate?

Questions! Questions! Questions!

Wow, there are a lot of questions!
Yet these are questions that the designer must ask when considering a concept. Furthermore, the designer will continue to ask these questions throughout the entire design process.

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Understanding the Design Process


Have you ever seen a wonderful design and thought, “I could never think up something like that?” Well, in truth, whoever did design it most likely started with only a glimmer of the idea and developed it into what you saw. Every design begins as a work in progress and must pass through a series of stages before reaching its final complete state. The path that leads the designer to a successful design is called the design process.

The design process refers to the various stages that designer and design must go through. However, the process is not a rigid one, as it must adapt to any situation. For example, the design stages are usually thought of as a sequence of steps, but sometimes the designer must revisit a previous step in order to proceed. The designer may complete one step quickly and spend much more time on another. Also, because of the nature of the project, the designer may want to break a step down into smaller steps. One thing is certain though. Each step must be taken in sequence in order to create a successful design.

The Design Process

1.) Project/Job Identification

Receive a description of the project. (example create a shopping bag for armani exchange)

2.) Collection of Information

Collect information about desired function, materials to be used, etc.

3.) Analysis of Information

Mentally digest all the information gathered. Create a timeline for the project.

Once we’ve collected all the information we can on shopping bags, it’s time to analyze what we’ve found out. (Step #3 of the Design Process.) This is primarily a mental process, but it may also include experimenting with the materials collected. This will allow you to become more familiar with them before proceeding to the creative phase.

Once you’ve collected as much information as possible and spent time analyzing it, you’ll be ready to begin the next step in the design process.

4.) Explore Possible Design Solutions

Brainstorming sessions.
During this creative phase, you generate as many ideas as possible and record them without spending any time judging them. The thumbnail sketch technique, which you have already learned, is ideal for this purpose.

It’s OK if you think you don’t have any good ideas. Very often it’s necessary to draw whatever is in your head just to “get them out of your system.” You will find that as you continue sketching, your ideas will become more and more creative. Because of this, the more ideas you generate, the more likely it is you will have several strong concepts.

Also, just as it isn’t wise to decide to marry the first person you go on a date with, it isn’t a good idea to “fall in love” with one of your early ideas. If you do, there is a real danger that you will lose the open mindedness that is necessary for generating good concepts. Besides, if your first ideas are that good, chances are that later ones will be even better.

5.) Select Best Idea(s)

Judge your raw ideas (you and your client).
Brainstorm some more if necessary.

Having generated a collection of concepts, it is now time to select the best of these for further development. As a general rule, it is a good idea to select more than one concept at this point for a number of reasons.

First, the client may not like your personal favorite for some reason. Having other ideas that are ready for presentation will increase the chances that the client will like something you present.

Second, showing that you have explored several ideas lets the client know that you’ve done a bit of work and thought about all the options.

Third, your client will appreciate having a choice to make rather than being presented with a “hit or miss” situation.

6.) Refine Best Idea(s)

Sharpen the design so that the concept or message is as clear as possible.

7.) Implement Design Solution

Create final version of design.

8.) Post Project Analysis

How successful is the design in actuality? What can you learn from it for future reference?

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How to measure your ‘Great’ Creative idea


What do you have to look out for a great design concept? Here is a Adjudication criteria used by red – dot design awards for design concepts, It can be a great measure for your next ‘great’ idea !

Degree of innovation

Is the concept new or does it supplement an existing product with a new desirable quality?

Aesthetic quality
Is the concept’s form pleasant to look at?

Realization possibility
Does current technology allow the concept to be realised as a product?
If not with current technology, is the possibility of realisation foreseeable in 1 to 3 years?

Functionality and usefulness
Does the concept fulfill all requirements of handling, usability, safety, and maintenance? Does it fulfill a need or function?

Manufacturing efficiency / cost of manufacturing
Can the concept be manufactured within a reasonable cost?

Emotional content
What does the concept offer the user beyond its immediate practical purpose in terms of sensual quality, possibilities of a playful use or emotional attachment?

Try scoring your idea against each of these in the scale of ten and if you get > 50 then it really can be useful.

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Communicating Your Concept


To be understood one must speak clearly both verbal and non-verbally. To that end, graphic design is a form of communication. To be effective it must be utilized and presented in a clear manner, or something graphic designers call clarity of intent.

Clarity of Intent

Clarity of intent means that in order for a design to communicate clearly, it must appear that every element within that design was intended by the designer. For example, if a designer was hired to create brochures for three different departments of the same company, they may have the proportions as shown on the following page.
This would be OK, since it is clear that the designer wished each brochure to have a distinctive proportion. The designer may also make the three brochures the exact same proportion, and this would be OK as well. In this scenario it would be the clear intention of the designer that the brochures share the same proportion.

But look what happens in the following case . . .

Here we see that the designer has created three proportions. They are close to being identical, but clearly they are not identical. So, the viewer is left with a question: “Are they supposed to be the same or different?”

This ambiguous situation makes the design difficult to understand clearly and is often interpreted as a mistake, lack of expertise, or the designer’s lack of self-confidence. It is also unsettling to the viewer, and if enough of the design elements are unclear, the whole design will be rejected.

Remember that the key is to make whatever is being done look intentional. If you cannot make colors match exactly, then make them clearly different. If you cannot line up the edges of shapes with one another, then move them far enough off alignment so that it is clear that you don’t want them to line up.

A professional design cannot be “almost right” or “close enough.” You will be hired because of your expertise. If you cannot “hit the bull’s eye,” then you need to rethink the “target.”

What you are trying to “say” with your design must be conveyed in a coherent manner. The process of seeing is sequential. In a well designed layout, the most important bit of information must be seen first, then the second most important, and so on. This is accomplished by employing the design concept of visual hierarchy.

Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is a way of organizing the parts of your design so that one part appears most important; another is of secondary importance, etc. You may change the importance of parts of your design by varying their size, position, color contrast, and use of space.

Specifically, some of the ways to make a design element more important are

* Increase the size of the element.
* Position the element higher or nearer the center of the composition.
* Make the color (hue, saturation, or value) markedly different from the remaining elements. This will make it stand out because of its uniqueness.
* Leave a lot of space around the element. This will also make it look more important.
* Unimportant elements may also be combined to create a larger, more important element called a group.

Three Elements

A designer must decide which three elements become the most important, as well as control their individual impact upon the whole. Let’s consider the following three important issues related to elements.

1. The dominant element (or grouping) is usually the largest, most interesting element. It should be placed in an important position within the design.
2. The subdominant element (or grouping) must compliment the dominant element in character, proportion, and movement. Its relationship to the dominant element must evoke a sense of “tension” or “awareness” between the two elements. The position of the dominant and subdominant elements should span the entire design. They should also constitute over half of the design.
3. Subordinate element (or grouping) is the third most important element. It should relate well to the other elements and complete the two-dimensional character of the design.

When it comes to creating a sense of power behind your concept, visual hierarchy is perhaps the most important design principle. Once the design has a clear hierarchy, something special occurs and the design develops a sense of unity.
Unity is a state of organization in which every design element and every design relationship is perfectly coordinated. A design that possesses the quality of unity will often “seal itself off” from its’ surroundings-seemingly to create a “world of its own.”

Messages From Empty Space

The third design principle that we will discuss is the use of negative space also known as white space. The way you use negative space can help organize your layout so that it is easier to understand. Graphic design pieces may include copy, images, and miscellaneous graphic elements. By controlling the space between elements, the designer can let the viewer know which items are related and those that are not.


Spacing can also be used to increase or decrease the visual importance (hierarchy) of design elements.

Remember that it is not necessary to fill up the whole layout with graphics. In fact, a layout that is completely filled is usually a failure because there is too much going on visually. Similar to trying to have a conversation in a very noisy room, communicating your message becomes an exercise in futility. As a professional, you will have put a substantial amount of effort in developing a strong concept. Don’t let it become lost in a layout filled with visual clutter!

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Language and Word Play


Hearing Between the Lines

Language is a third component of graphic design that can be used effectively in the formulation and development of concepts. Words are so potent that a successful graphic presentation may not include color or image-only text.

Culturally Specific Copy

Words are culturally specific, This can be a disadvantage when trying to communicate your message to everyone. Obviously, your audience must be able to read the particular language that is used. In addition, the copy (the actual words being used) must be designed by someone who understands the nuances of language. This means the common expressions, platitudes, and words that have more than one meaning, and sound alike but have different meanings. An example of this difficulty is translation of poetry, jokes and metaphors from one language to another.

Nevertheless, the culturally specific nature of language can be a great advantage when “targeting” a specific group of individuals. When your audience reads a message that is obviously directed to them exclusively, a feeling of kinship is created. This is a powerful force in creating trust in the message being delivered and also motivates the audience, to act upon the message. For example, if a bank advertisement in Spanish speaks to this specific audience then it appeals to the perceived needs of this group and motivates this group to become customers.

Clever designers and advertisers can appeal to different groups with the same words by choosing language that has different meanings to each group. Following is one of the most effective advertising phrases in use today, which does exactly this . . .

“It takes two hands to handle a Whopper.”

Do you recognize it? It’s part of the old Burger King jingle used to promote their biggest hamburger. Now think, what does this phrase actually mean? To a child, it refers to nothing more than a big hamburger. Yet adults are quick to see within it many humorous connotations, several of which are sexually titillating. This is not an accident, but rather an intentional effort on the part of the designers to communicate a different message to children and adults. If you are attentive, you will see that this method of appealing to divergent audiences is used practically everywhere.

Targeting an Audience

A related technique is choosing words and phrases that have specific meanings for the target group yet appear of no significance to the general population. For example, a recent automobile ad featured the car being sold along with the caption “Drive it because you are unique.” On the face of it, there was nothing unusual about the ad. However, if you looked closely, you would also notice that the license plate on the car read “XENA-LUVR” –an insider term used by lesbians to identify themselves. It turns out that the automobile company knew that many of their customers were lesbians. And they wanted to advertise to this group without upsetting the appeal their product held for the general population.

By using this technique, they were able to advertise to everyone and target a specific group at the same time. In summary, by using phrases and terminology used by specific groups, the copy used can “connect” with the target group and “go over the heads” of everyone else!
The use of language allows the graphic designer to communicate the concept message on a conscious level. Specialists in this area are called copywriters. As a graphic designer, you may find yourself working with a copywriter or perhaps even writing copy yourself!

Sounds Speak Louder than Words

When we read something to ourselves, we also recall the sounds of the words being read from our memory. Because of this, we actually can “hear” what is being read in our mind even though the sound of the words does not come to us through our ears. The designer can create interesting concepts by using this curious phenomenon of hearing when no sound is present through the use of homonyms.

In common usage, the term homophone (example: bear= animal and bare= without hair) refers to words that sound alike but are spelled differently and differ in meaning and homonym (example: not and knot) refers to words that are pronounced alike, differ in meaning and may or may not differ in spelling. By finding clever phrases that contain homophones and homonyms, multiple messages can be delivered simultaneously to the audience. When the audience realizes the subtlety of word play, it can be amused by the messages and cleverness of the written technique.

For example, students were given the task of using homonyms in creating Tag Lines for magazine ads. A tag line is a catchy phrase or slogan that works closely with the other graphics to create a strong impression upon the viewer. Let’s read one tag line that a student came up with for a television weather channel . . .

“Weather You Like It or Not”

Did you find yourself “doing a double take” when you read it?

This clever line says two things about the weather simultaneously:

1. Sometimes you like the weather and at other times you may not.
2. The weather is a situation that must be accepted regardless of how you feel about it!

Here is another sentence attributed to Benjamin Franklin in which the phrase “more or less” can be read with two different meanings. In this case, this phrase is referred to as an idiom, which is a combination of words that has a meaning that is different from the meanings of the individual words themselves. http://www.idiomconnection.com/whatis.html#A2

“Money, more or less, is always welcome.”

Concept Formation Using Images and Words
So far the lecture has focused on the ways in which images and their components (such as line, shape, and color) are used to communicate a concept to an audience. The lecture also explored some of the ways that words can be used to deliver our concept. Now is the time for us to begin combining images and words in order to create graphics with strong concepts.

Begin by taking an image similar to one we’ve seen before—this time the baby is crying. Let’s add some copy and see what happens . . .
We’ve introduced the sound of the baby crying into the composition. It tells us about the noise that the baby is making; however, it doesn’t do much else. Now let’s add a little twist . . .

Who’s doing the crying now? By adding copy that is obviously directed to an adult audience, we have introduced a second, more complex use of the sound “Whaaah.” Now it also means that raising a child is so expensive it’s enough to make the would-be parents cry as well. But what are the purposes of the graphic? Let’s add one more piece to the puzzle . . .

This final bit of copy completes the concept. Babies cry, the cost makes parents want to cry. The solution is buying savings bonds.
This is one way to approach the combination of copy and image to create a concept. Whatever you do, remember that your concept must capture the attention of viewers very quickly and hold their attention until the message is delivered.

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Color Schemes


Image: the first of three basic elements that help in the formation and development of concepts.

The remaining two elements that influence concept formation: Color and Language. utilize these elements to help develop ideas. Beyond that, begin looking at graphic design as a mode of communication. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of clarity in a designer’s message.

Have you ever wondered why red evokes a sense of passion in western culture, while dark green equates with a notion of wealth in other cultures? Color is a very powerful design element that often works as a perceptual metaphor that designers can use to communicate a concept.

Hue is an aspect of color that relates to the wavelength of the light being viewed. The purity of the hue is measured as its’ degree of intensity or saturation. When we speak of hue, it is referring to a particular color family or name. When someone refers to a color as being red, it is a description of that color’s hue. Hue is what distinguishes red from green, yellow from blue, and orange from purple. When hue is mixed with degrees of white and black, it produces tints, shades, and tones.

Pure hue mixed with various amounts of white creates the tint grouping. Studies show that people associate tints with the concepts of purity, clarity, spirit, sweet taste and smell, low cost, frivolousness, and infancy.

Pure hue and black combined in various combinations produce shades. Shades are associated with wealth, maturity, costliness, and seriousness.

The mixture of pure hue with both white and black creates tone. There are a wide variety of associations with tones. In general, grayer tones have “sad” associations, while the more saturated tones have more positive associations. Lighter tones are “simpler” and have greater mass appeal, while darker tones are perceived as “complex.”
When speaking of color associations, it is worth mentioning the psychological phenomenon of synesthesia, which is a type of perceptual metaphor. In other words, when a color is seen, another sense such as taste or sound is also stimulated. To a greater or lesser extent almost everyone has experienced synesthesia although they may not be consciously aware of them. For example, in some people pastel colors, particularly pink, evoke the taste of sweetness and are, therefore, favored colors for pastry and candy. Whereas the color orange is often associated with loud sound, especially brass trumpets or horns. The experience of synesthesia between color and music is so common that the two areas of study freely exchange terms such as tone, pitch, intensity, and volume.

Subconscious Responses

In the previous lesson we looked at various color groupings and how we respond to them. But how do we respond to specific colors and why?


When “red” fills the field of vision, it sends a chemical signal to the adrenal Medulla; then the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) is released creating a more excited state in the body. Blood pressure and breathing rate both increase. Red is also known to stimulate appetite, and some studies indicate that food actually tastes better in a red environment. Additionally, this color helps distort the passage of time. In the presence of red, time seems to go by more quickly. You may seem to have only been in the space for an hour when in fact it has been two.


Pink (a tint of red), on the other hand, has the effect of secreting norepinephrine, which inhibits production of epinephrine. Therefore, when in a pink environment, it is difficult to remain in an excited or angry state.

Yellow is used by nature to send a message of caution. Various insects and animals with bright yellow markings often have poisonous stings or bites. Some research indicates that when we see black and yellow combinations we instinctively “pull back” from the object. Yellow is the fastest color you see in terms of speed and is a good color for gaining quick attention. Black and yellow is the most visible color combination as it combines extremes of both value and saturation. Yellow also has been found to cause anxiety; and in its presence, babies are more likely to cry, and individuals are more likely to lose their temper.


Blue suppresses the appetite, as we instinctively reject the color blue in our food. It is a color that indicates authority, safety, and respect. It has a long visual horizon (the eyes focus far away) and causes the brain to release certain tranquilizing hormones. What people experience is a cool and calming effect. Blue also makes time seem to go by slowly.


Green, on the other hand, has an appetizing effect for most food with the exception of sweets. It also has a cooling and calming effect; hence the “green room” in theaters, where nervous actors can wait for their cue to go on stage.

These are just a few of the known effects that color has upon individuals. Perhaps you know of some more. Nevertheless, as a designer, it is important to be aware of what has been called the “language of color”—that is, the message that color and color combinations communicate regardless of anything else. Colors can express warmth, comfort, and privacy or be cold and irritating. They can be used to invite us in or reject us. In this regard, here is an unusual example of how a designer used color for a specific result . . .

Carlton Wagner, a well-known color expert, was hired by a company to select the color for an envelope that was to be designed to be thrown away. It turns out that the company was required by a government regulation to mail checks to all past clients. However, if the clients didn’t cash the checks, the funds would legally remain in the company’s bank account. Carlton selected a very off-putting color for the envelopes. As a result, less than 15% of the clients opened the envelopes before throwing them away, saving the company thousands of dollars!
Color, therefore, is another tool that the graphic designer can use to communicate the design concept and enhance desired results.

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Concept and Design


A concept is the starting point of a new idea that needs to go through a process that will bring it to maturity. That process is design. Conceptualization is a purely creative act-the idea is “born.” And design is the process of bringing that idea to full fruition.

Child psychologists say that an infant begins life with few and very elemental concepts such as distress, excitement, and delight. It is widely believed that we continue to respond in these rudimentary ways on a subconscious level. This is an exciting area to designers, and we will explore how it can be used to help create and develop highly effective concepts.

Most of us have better results if we are well rested, comfortable, and free of distractions. Depending on whether we need to think deeply or not, music or silence may be helpful. Trying to work on an empty stomach (or too full) may also interfere with the mind. These things we learn through our own experience.

So, the next time you are having a very productive work session, make a mental note about how you are feeling, the environment, etc., so that you can duplicate the situation in the future. Similarly, if you are not doing well, analyze what may be wrong. Is the television distracting you? Is it too noisy? If you change what is hindering the process, you should get better results.

Imagine you have just been given a design job. You familiarize yourself with the nature of the job: the desired outcome, the constraints and the budget. Then, you develop concepts that meet these goals. To that end, you stop collecting information and switch your mind into creative mode.

Creative Mode

The creative mode is playful and easy. Relax, and start playing with ideas. Remember that combining existing concepts creates new concepts. Creative mode is never analytical or judgmental.

Design Mode

After a large number of concepts are generated, it’s time to switch into design mode. Design mode is the time to ask analytical and judgmental questions. Learning how to ask the right questions is a difficult, but crucial part of the process. For example, the designer might ask, is the concept appropriate? Is it strong? Will it do the job?

Along the way, throughout the development of your final concept, you will need to solve smaller issues and may need to switch into creative mode to find a solution. Knowing when to switch between one mode of thinking and another is a necessary skill used regularly by all designers (e.g., architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape designers, product designers, and graphic designers).

Our experiences are the basis of our ability to create concepts. The experiences may be simple, such as the sensation of light, or complex, such as a trip to a foreign country. Yet, this is the food for thought that is necessary for new concepts to be created.

We carry our experiences as memories and draw upon them constantly. We formulate and store in our memory associations between sensory information and experiences. This deep relationship between senses and experience is the key to unlocking the secrets of creativity. Moreover, graphic designers should not think that vision is the only sense that needs to be addressed. As we will learn, shapes and colors are not only seen but also stimulate the sensations: touch, taste, sound, and smell.

Like all designers, graphic designers must be consciously aware of ideas that our audience is not. Most individuals act out of habit or unconsciously, and they use only their conscious mind when confronted with a new or difficult situation. In other words, they take most things for granted. For most people “pink” is a color that is traditionally associated with young girls; yet a designer also sees it as the color of the clouds at sunset and as one of the “sweetest tasting” colors.

Looking and seeing are different acts. Designers must learn to be aware of what they are actually seeing, rather than seeing what they expect. Look at a tree. We expect green leaves and brown bark. But are the leaves really green? Is the bark closer to gray or tan than brown? Designers innately notice the difference and details!

. An archetype is a generic form or image associated with a concept. It allows the mind to organize the many different variations of the concept under one category.It is difficult, if not impossible to be creative if you cling to the archetype. In fact, it is often advantageous to reject-or at least question-the characteristics of any archetype associated with the concept. You may then take new characteristics from other concepts and “try them out” in a creative technique known as “brainstorming.”

You brainstorm by recording your ideas quickly without wasting time judging them. The best way for graphic designers to brainstorm is to make quick small sketches that serve as a visual record of the creative process. You may also jot down a quick note with your sketch to add clarity as well as communicate your intent to others. As you work, you may find that you sometimes create a series of variations of an idea. This is OK. But once the series has run itself out, it’s time to try another fresh idea.

If you find your mind blocked, check to see if you are being too analytical. Remember that anything goes!

Graphic design is a visual way of communicating ideas to other people. Many people think that sight works much the same way as a camera does.

Which of these shapes do you perceive as sharp, hard, or soft? It’s easy to see that the shape on the left is “sharp.” It makes us uncomfortable. The middle shape is “soft,” and is inviting to the touch. Finally, the shape on the right is “hard.”

So we’ve discovered another unconscious aspect of vision that may be of use to us as designers. What we see is also experienced as though we had touched it as well.

Another related phenomenon is our response to visual texture. We see and “feel” visual texture through the sense of sight only. The sense of touch is not involved. Nevertheless, we respond as if we had actually touched the texture. Visual textures can be scratchy, smooth, bumpy, and so on.

So far, we’ve discovered two unconscious aspects of vision that may be of use to us as designers: the somatic response to shape, and the tactile response to that which is only seen.

Let’s try one more experiment using the shapes in the second figure. Which shape makes a sudden loud noise? Which emits a constant low hum? Which one is quiet? Once again, the answers are obvious. We can now add hearing to the list of senses that may also be unconsciously activated through vision.

Bearing in mind what you’ve just learned, ask yourself which proportions from Figure 1 would be most useful in designing an ad for a secluded, restful vacation on the seashore? Which shape from Figure 2 would be appropriately used in a layout for an exciting amusement park? These are the types of questions the designers must ask themselves if they wish to create powerful designs.

So we’ve seen that curved lines can create feelings within us of movement, expansion, rest, etc. And this happens even though lines in and of themselves don’t do any of these things at all. Let’s look at how straight lines can also be used to express movement.

Combining random images is another technique that the designer can use to find inspiration for new concepts.

It is human nature to try to find meaning in our surroundings. When confronted with an image, both the mind and the physiology go into action and respond to it. The response is based upon previous experience and expectations. When confronted with two images together, we draw upon our experience and expectations in order to find how the images may “connect” with one another.

Imagine a picture of dollar notes, army tank, and a child. Try associating any two of them and see what you come up with. As you can see, associating two images is a powerful way of formulating new concepts.

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Clocks For Your Thoughts


A Wall clock is in my opinion the best case study for design. if you ever want to create a new design try a clock. Here are some of the designs to get your imagination racing.

QLOCKTWO by Biegert & Funk Product

A matrix with symmetrically arranged characters forms an additional square on the inside. Some of these characters glow in pure white, thus forming words that describe the time.The front surface of the qlocktwo is supported by eight magnets. That way the front surface can be replaced without visible attachments. There are satin stainless steel or five colours of polished synthetic glass to choose from, each generating contrasts or consistencies in interplay with their surroundings.Available in nine different languages and six finishes, including stainless steel. Handmade in Germany by Biegert & Funk Product GmbH & Co. KG. http://www.qlocktwo.com/

Soft Clock – Myznik Egor

An ordinary wall clock always hasten us. It hurries us for walk with dog, reminds that it is time for work, for dinner, for watching serial or going asleep.Soft Clock designed by Myznik Egor helps us to reconsider time as a non-stop rush and allows admiring every minute. Soft Clock is rather an incessantly twisting art-object than a proper instrument for time measurement. This futuristic timepiece may be of any form and color.Red Dot Design Award Winner 2009. http://www.plenum.ru/

Blank Wall Clock

A wall clock for Italian design brand Alessi with a pen: you can write, draw and erase it easily according to your perception of time and graphics. http://www.guixe.com/

Tempo Clocks

Quartz wall clocks “Tempo” designed by Dario Serio for Nava Design. Line made in varnished aluminium.

Black and White Clock

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Sign My Commonplace Artbook


A Common place Artbook is a record of things, we have seen or heard and want to remember:an art, a design, an artwork, a critique, a quote, a remark by a designer of unusual sensibility, a witty or wise saying, or even silly or foolish or crass.

My most favorite quote on design is:

“You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”

My Favorite design is by Picasso.

Please sign my Common place artbook with Your life’s most favorite Design or Quote.

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Most Effective Designs are Least Complicated


My experiment with Parasignals gave birth to the following quote and design

Do I need an example ?

If you don’t know parasignals here is a crash course.

Here is some more information by Crawford Dunn

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Unique Perspective on Critique


We all can have different opinion of painting, but I came across this beautiful way of expressing this which got stuck with me. Here is the image by Mark Tansey, “A Short History of Modernism” to illustrate the point.

What someone takes from an image or design is a product of what they bring to it !” – David A. Lauer in Design Basics.

David says that the critique process can include a range of responses suggested by Mark Tansey painting.

  • Your work subjected to aggressive cleansing process
  • You may feel you are butting your head against the wall.
  • And that someone takes from an image or design is a product of what they bring to it!
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Difference between Movement and Rhythm in a design


Movement is the illusion of motion created by lines, shapes or color that cause the eye to move over the design along those shapes, where as rhythm is the regular repetition of lines, shapes, or color that creates a pattern to the overall design. A rythm in the picture can also create a movement. For example the famous Starry Night painting by Van gogh,

The picture shows movement by the unique painting of cloud/wind which seems to move from left to write, where as the same style of shape is used for stars, moon and the overall color gives a rythm to the whole design.

To create rythm in the picture you need to have repetition of line, shape, color, or style in the picture or a combination of these things.

To create movement, the design should have a sense of flow in the picture, a sense of direction. A rythm in the picture can also cause a movement.

How would you create them ?

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The Gestalt Theory of Visual Psychology


In an attempt to organize the various elements of a composition, a designer’s job is actually made simpler by the viewer, because he or she is looking for some sort of organization, some way to relate the various elements. Psychologically, the viewer wants to find some sort of discernible pattern or unity within a design. The viewer will always try to create order out of chaos. The Gestalt theory of visual psychology tries to explain this phenomenon by providing a set of rules. These rules help predict what a viewer’s perception will be when given certain visual stimuli.

The Six laws of perceptual organization are:

  1. Pragnanz (Good Figure)
  2. Similarity
  3. Good Continuation
  4. Proximity
  5. Common Fate
  6. Familiarity

Pragnanz (Good Figure)

The law of Pragnanz or the law of good figure states that every stimulus pattern is seen in such a way that the resulting structure is as simple as possible. This means that the viewer will always try to organize the elements of a design into the simplest pattern possible. A square that is overlapping a triangle is seen as two simple overlapping shapes, rather than a single more complex polygon.


The law of similarity states that similar visual elements appear to be grouped together. Elements of a design that look alike are organized into a group. So squares are visually grouped together with other squares, and circles are visually grouped together with other circles.

Good Continuation

The law of good continuation states that a series of visual elements connected in a straight or curved line is seen as belonging together. A series of forms lined up in a path will be visually grouped together, even if that path is interrupted by another form. The law also states that lines tend to be seen in such a way as to follow the smoothest path.


The law of proximity states that visual elements which are near to each other are grouped together. Even if the elements of a design are not similar in form, they may be seen as belonging together if they are close to each other in the composition. A circle and a square will be grouped together if they are in proximity of one another.

Common Fate

The law of common fate states that visual elements which appear to be moving in the same direction will be grouped together. Two forms with similar orientations will appear to belong with one another. For example, a triangle and a rectangle will be grouped together if they both appear to be moving in the same direction in the composition.


The law of familiarity states that visual elements are more likely to form a group if that group of elements appears meaningful or familiar. If the individual forms of a design create a larger, more recognizable form, then those forms are grouped together. If a rectangle and a triangle are arranged in such a way that they resemble the form of a house, then those shapes are seen as a group.

These six laws of perceptual organization allow us to represent objects from the real world in a two-dimensional composition. They explain how a viewer is able to take a bunch of seemingly disparate shapes in a design and organize them into something recognizable. An understanding of these six laws will help you make decisions on how to arrange the individual elements of your design, and predict how they will be perceived.

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What Makes a Good Design


A good design in my opinion, needs to achieve its goal clearly, what it was primarily meant for.

    The goal of the design can be:

  • Solving a problem creatively
  • Communicating an idea effectively
  • Plain aesthetic, which makes people wonder

To solve a problem creatively “Form follow function” is a great principle because its focus is the functionality which is the solution to the given problem. To communicate an idea effectively, visual delight becomes more important, effective display of the core idea with the help of minimum amount of pictures, words or illustration makes a greater impact. Plain aesthetic design can be achieved with both simplicity as well as abstractness, it is not limited to any design principles and neither are means to an end. It could be a visual delight and can also reflect an Idea.

So what makes people wonder ?
I think that this quality is the impact of a good design.

  1. One way would be to make it very simplistic, for example Picaso’s famous painting make people wonder because of the simplicity.

  2. Another way is if the picture has extraordinary depth for example the Barbershop by Norman Rockwell has amazing lightings

  3. yet another way to make people wonder is by hidden meaning or trick in the picture

So what do you think ?

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Paperclip Principle

Paperclip principle is a minimalist design principle for developing software user interfaces. The Paperclip principle is inspired by the most popular kind of Paper clip. The GEM Paper clip, out of more than 40 different kinds of Paper-clip became popular and is still in use.
The fact that the GEM Paper-clip, inspite of made of wire, have rounded edges, which makes it look smooth and harmless, is easily understandable and use, makes it a great case study for user interfaces. The Paperclip Principle is based on the assumption that
”Most effective designs are least complicated”
This can be proved using a number of popular examples currently available, user interfaces for desktop applications, web applications as well as mobile applications.
To apply Paperclip principle to a user interface design, you need to take care of only three things:
Make the user interface:
* Easy to Look at
* Easy to Understand
* Easy to Use
reference: Paper-clips at Office Museum
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Vote Now: 10 Tips for Mobile Web Design !


How to create a mobile version of your website? Do you need to optimize your current website for mobile devices or design a completely new website? Do you need to worry about different platforms, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian, Blackberry, Linux, Brew, Android, and Nokia? What resolution, what screen size you should target, and what is this PPI anyway? How to design for maximum number of users and devices, in the least amount of time? In this session, mobile web usability expert and author of “Beginning Smartphone Web Development”, Rajesh Lal will discuss ten pragmatic tips, for designing website for mobile devices.

Interested ? VOTE for it at Mix 10 (1. Add to ballot,2. Submit ballot)


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Ten Tips for Designing Mobile Widgets


Maemo Summit, 11 Oct, 2009 Amsterdam Netherlands

Abstract: Do you know why only 1 percent of Mobile Widgets are successful ? What makes some widgets thrive and used by millions, and others with equal functionality bite the dust ? Make no mistakes, design of a widget is not about graphics, colour or fonts. This presentation will demystify this ‘invisible’ layer below the surface with 10 pragmatic tips. The tips will cover some of the most useful, and often ignored standard design principals and how to apply them in a mobile context.

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