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Misconceptions About Great Design

Creative Market March 31, 2021 · 3 min read

People have tried for centuries to figure out what makes for great design. After all, if it were possible to pinpoint a particular set of characteristics leading to outstanding design, there wouldn’t be any awful examples. Instead, there are vague notions about what separates better from best. The more thought that goes into what makes for the best design possible, the more misconceptions arise. We can’t tell you exactly what (if anything) makes a design more exciting than your competitors’, but we can tell you what doesn’t. Here are five widely accepted notions about great design that are to be avoided.

1. Great Design is Aesthetic Fluff

According to legendary designer Dieter Rams, a great layout involves function combined with psychological and aesthetic elements. When used appropriately, aesthetics emphasizes an object’s usefulness. Great designers know that their projects may be used daily and, as such, are aware of their influence on everyday life. Being merely fashionable is never enough, as function is vital to the aesthetic and vice versa. No matter how lovely a site looks, no one will want it if it’s impractical and difficult to use.

2. New Tech Equals Better Design

New technology is exciting – especially from a design perspective – but it’s not necessarily “better.” For instance, a phone may have a multitude of new features, each of which is intriguing in their own right. However, these may only work together to overpower the user or distract from the core function of the object. It’s best to stay simple, and not let new, exciting technology detract from what a simple, great design can do.

3. Simple Design is Cheap and Easy

The term “simple” – especially regarding design – essentially has to do with clarity. A simple layout lets the product speak. The belief that simple design is cheap or easy to do is mainly a semantic misunderstanding. Simplicity should not be confused with ignorance or a lack of ability. A simplified design is not simple because it lacks features, but because it’s self-explanatory, and concentrates on what is essential about a product.

4. Typography is Stuffy and Formal

Allow the misconceptions to tell it, and you’ll likely believe typography’s usefulness relates only to indentation and ostentatious Victorian lettering. The typographical truth is more complex, and brings back the idea of functionality. Type should be legible. There’s a lot more to typography than you might think – it requires a keen eye for processes that produce the legible text you may take for granted in everyday life. These processes involve leading (how text is vertically spaced), kerning (setting the distance between two letters) and tracking (adjusting the space throughout a word).

5. Good Design Can Sell Anything

Great design isn’t out to manipulate users and push products. Great design is honest, and gets to the core of what the product is about. Competent designers know not to trick the users interacting with their designs. All the bells and whistles in the world won’t camouflage a poor product’s shortcomings. Instead, great design strives to facilitate a true experience unhindered by marketing doublespeak. Great design does not obstruct, it guides the user to the core of the experience. Truly superior design does this subtly, as if it were never there in the first place.

What Else?

What other things have you heard said about design that struck you as entirely untrue? Leave a comment and let us know.

Header image created using Home Office Desk Items, Veryberry Script, and Eveleth – Premium Letterpress Fonts.

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