The “Secret” to Great Design

Posted in: Best Practices  |  By:

In an age where design is (thankfully) all around us, and in hopes of bettering my craft, I often find myself asking: what makes great design? The more I ask, the more I realize there is no exact answer. What is great to some may only be good to others and what worked for one project may not work for the next. There is no secret formula and every project comes with its own set of obstacles. This inevitable truth is what keeps design evolving and creative professionals on our toes.

Although there is no secret process for great design, I tend to stick to a few basics that guide me in the right direction:

  1. Treat each project as an exciting new adventure.
    Let’s face it, some projects are more enjoyable than others. The trick is to keep a fresh outlook and treat each project like a new learning experience: an opportunity to try a different process or a challenge to better your skills. Each project deserves the same level of attention; what appears to be a simple project may turn into a more rewarding experience as a result of the work put in.
  2. Design with three perspectives in mind: the designer’s, the client’s, and the user’s.
    Producing successful work requires knowing who the work is intended for and what their needs are. This does not only include the client and end-user but the designer as well. Seasoned designer Joshua Johnson explains that each perspective has a different set of needs that must be considered. “The design must be attractive enough to catch a user’s attention, the message strong enough to communicate effectively to the user and the functionality simple enough to cause the user to take action.” Aesthetics, effectiveness, functionality – that pretty much sums it up.
  3. Know expectations and push limits.
    Understanding expectations sets a framework to work around as well as a bar to aim to exceed. Good expectations are realistic and include all parties involved, reachable milestones, and open communication. Knowing what the expectations are and how they fit into a client’s larger communications strategy enables designers to be more impactful about choices made and even suggest different solutions from what originally planned.

I remember these as personal design guidelines but they can be applied in many other scenarios, from positioning and messaging to social media strategy. The “secret formula” to great design is far from real but a fresh outlook, considering your audience’s needs, and understanding expectations create the right starting place for any design project.

What do you think makes great design?
Tweet me at @mromja and follow us at @eastwickcom. Better yet, drop us a note and let’s get started on your next great design project.

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