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7 Design Rules You Must Never Break

Design Rules

Just as it is with any other discipline or profession, graphic design comes with golden rules you must adhere to. I know it can be tempting to let loose your bottled-up creativity, but then a creative profession like graphic design needs a manual. While it is sometimes encouraged to break the rules, especially when it comes to design, you at least need to learn the rules to break them properly (the right way).

So from color to typography and layout, here is a list that contains basic design rules, tricks, and tips to frequent errors and how to eliminate them from your design.

1. Don’t disregard kerning

In the world of design, a shoddy kerning job is a cardinal sin. So it’s one important skill you need to nail down as a fledgling designer. Kerning focuses on the adjustment of space between characters. It might not really sound like much, but a great kerning job can do a whole lot of good. Adding it as an extra step in your design workflow (headlines, typography logos, etc.) can make a huge difference in how polished your type-focused designs look.

2. Don’t substitute legibility or readability for aesthetics

I know you have probably heard this a lot of times that the primary aim of design is to communicate. So it does make sense, making legibility and readability a top priority. What differentiates graphic designers from other creatives; say artists is that the works they produce sometimes have commercial goals. It might be to encourage people to see a movie through a poster or try to lure them to purchase a product. Whatever it is, graphic design does fulfill a functional purpose.

It’s of no use making something creative when it doesn’t fulfill a commercial purpose. That’s why you must strike a balance between function and form while designing. To nail the legibility/readability equilibrium, you must check on three things:

  • Type size – It’s a design-sin to make your text size small. Would your work be too difficult to read? You can do a test print to check yourself or ask for feedback.
  • Right font choice – Having the right font is crucial, because specific fonts have certain emotions or moods they are associated with. For instance, never use display fonts for body copy. That’s like wearing a ball gown to the bank. They are better suited for small areas of text. You want to use a font that will enhance readability and legibility.
  • Low contrast between your text and background can make things very difficult for your readers. You want to keep the contrast high to avoid this.

In all, you need to be careful concerning legibility and readability. Just because it looks great doesn’t mean it communicates.

3. Stick with a logical color palette

Color is an important tool for designers. So it makes a lot of sense for a consistent and carefully arranged color palette to be a crucial step before designing. Unless you have a preset color palette within the brand identity you’re working on; you need to think about creating one. Color can give your work a distinctive mood or personality. It can even turn out to be the most impactful element in your design. With color, you need to be aware that some colors work really well together, and some simply don’t. Avoid color clash, because when that happens, it stresses the eyes and can make your design elements retreat to the background or become very difficult to read.

  • Choose color palettes that have similar tones, like a palette of blue or red tones.
  • Also, you can choose colors that are opposite each other on the spectrum.

4. Have a strong hierarchy

In the world of design, just as in lots of natural order, purposeful hierarchy is a powerful tool. Hierarchy is the orderly arrangement of elements to signify importance. So you use type, color, scale, etc. to hold attention to the essential elements. Hierarchy is mostly used in typography. It could be down to the smallest adjustment to weight, size, or color.

5. Start designing with a brief

It doesn’t matter who your design is meant for; a client, yourself, or a coworker. You need to start with a brief every time. An important element in the design brief is asking the question, “who are you designing for?” of course, your design must have an intended audience. I mean, people that will see your design and grasp the communication. No designer can create out of a vacuum. You need a brief to set yourself a goal and keep you focused.

6. Watch out for color discord

Commonly known as color clashing, discord occurs when you pair two colors that are wide apart on the color wheel. The eyes struggle to find the lines between the colors as they create a vibrating or muddy effect. This is not to say discordant colors can’t be used, but they need to work in harmony.

7. Whitespace is no empty space

Whitespace is a tool in design that can add something unique to your work. When used well, it can help balance out your design elements and allow your design to breathe. You don’t have to fill every space available with graphic elements.

These design rules are not meant to limit your creativity. Take them instead as a foundation for creating your standard designs. Keep a check on these few principles will help you think like a professional designer while you work and help you create awesome designs.