Taking Creative License

There is wave of standards based design washing over the World Wide Web.  It is being driven by the desire to create web page design that is browser independent, portable and flexible.  These designs can be rapidly and easily edited and updated.  These new designs are driving and being driven by the huge explosion in Blogs.  There are several Blogs that brought this new design discipline to my attention, almost cool is one that I enjoy.  I found  a battered copy of HOW Magazine,  a slick publication that is riding this design wave. They have a WEB site of course, but the paper magazine is very satisfying.  In the June issue there is an article that speaks to the principle that a thing is either well designed or it is not.  The article is from the authors of one of the canons of design, "Universal Principles of Design", by Lidwell, Holden and Butler.  Their thinking is that you must first know the rules of design then you may break the rules of design.  This is "Creative License".

"Design, like driving, adheres to basic rules of the road.  But designers take creative liberties, bending those laws to suit a project.  Learn these rules, excerpted from the innovative "Universal Principles of Design"........ And then break'em.

Hick's Law, The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increases.

This is the often heard wale of "Too Much Information".  When we are overwhelmed with options and choices our decision making is bogged down and often short circuited completely.  There are so many choices in the video store that we walk out picking a movie.  There are countless examples.  This means to keep the Blog design clean, simple and elegant.  Offer the reader fewer, but higher quality choices and that reader will return again and again.

Closure, A tendency to perceive a set of individual elements as a single, recognizable pattern, rather than multiple, individual elements.

This means that people tend to see a group of individual elements as  a recognizable pattern, instead of a bunch of random elements on a page.  We want to see a form or shape we know so strongly we will fill in the missing information in the pattern to form the whole message.  This allows designers to reduce the number of elements on a page and still communicate their ideas.  As designers we can make our designs simpler, more elegant, and more interesting.  We tend to "Fill in the Blanks".

Figure-Ground Relationship, Elements are perceived as either figures )objects of focus) or ground (the rest of the perceptual field)

When we look at a design, a Blog, a WEB Page, we divide that space into figure-ground elements.  The figure parts are our focus, the ground parts are the background.  When we design a page that directs the viewers eye to the place we want the design is stable.  It receives more attention and is remembered.  This can be accomplished by making the important bits pop out of the background clutter.  We are working to reduce that clutter with clean design.

The remaining rules to be learned and then broken are, Iconic Representation, Ockham's Razor, the Von Restorff Effect and Face-ism Ratio.  These last ideas are well past the scope of this post.  I found the article in NOW magazine to be thought provoking and made me look at Blog and WEB page design with a fresh eye.    I believe that things are well designed or they are not.  This brief exposure to these principles allow me to become a better designer and to appreciate the work and passion of other designers.  Perfection is unattainable, but we can strive for it.

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