Kedron Rhodes Thoughts on Design, Innovation & Leadership

5 Steps to Better Design

I've been approached countless times by developers asking me to help them bring rhythm and balance to a page in their app. My typical response is not to wave the design wand, but rather to show them where they can apply a few simple principles and techniques to bring rhythm and balance on their own. I'm a firm believer that anyone can learn enough design basics to put together a pleasing piece.

Here are 5 things you can do today that will make your designs better.

1. Proportion

The size of each element ought to be informed by the importance it plays in the context — this includes type, interactive elements, photos and images.

By visualizing the relative importance of an object, you communicate to the viewer how they should interpret the information you're providing.

Tip: Proportion can be established by the visual density of an object, as well as the negative space around it.

2. Direction

Establish a clear direction you want your viewer to follow.

The viewer should be able to identify a logical sequence and direction, leading them to the next desired interaction.

Tip: Proportion informs direction, but should not be left on its own to do the job.

3. Consistency

Consistency builds a shared language between the design and the viewer.

Consistency is the way we begin establishing the rules of engagement with the viewer. When we violate those rules, we undermine the trust a viewer has with the design.

Tip: Deviating from consistency is an important part of the communication process, and should be done with intention.

4. Contrast

Contrast controls the energy of the design.

Contrast, by nature, draws the viewers attention. Use contrast to bring attention to or away from an object.

Tip: Squinting while looking at the design will let you know where the energy of the page lies.

5. Restraint

Aim for simplicity.

Every visual element you introduce to the viewer demands that the viewer learn and hold its meaning in their mind while they are engaged. The more elements you add, the more challenging you make it for the viewer to keep all of the cognitive plates spinning. A simpler design is a better design.

Tip: Before introducing something new to the viewer, ask yourself if you can accomplish what you need by using the first 4 items in this list.

I hope this helps you out the next time you face adding rhythm and balance to a design.


I have recommended "Looking Good in Print" countless times, where you'll find examples of these concepts and many more useful design principles and techniques.

Most of what I know about design, including these principles, I learned 15 years ago from Terry B., a design mentor and friend.

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