Design is…

Picture 3One of the frustrations of being involved in a design process is that every can have an opinion on design, and express it. Having recently heard design dismissed as “aesthetics” (by a non-designer, obviously) I’ve been looking harder at some discussions of design principles.

Common principles include; balance, rhythm, proportion, dominance, unity, negative space, and colour. These are discussed on Digital Web in some detail.

I’ve noticed is that there is a lack of understanding of these principles, and almost no understanding of the interplay between the principles. If, for example you change the colour of an element on your site from bright red to pale grey that element will recede. It will no longer be dominant, and your site may look unbalanced as a result.

And in my research I found a lovely discussion on Presentation Zen – a site well worth visiting for design inspiration – about Japanese principles of design. Emphasis is on providing a quietness in design allowing what is essential to be more apparent.

Seijaku (静寂)Tranquility or an energized calm (quite), stillness, solitude. This is related to the feeling you may have when in a Japanese garden. The opposite feeling to one expressed by seijaku would be noise and disturbance. How might we bring a feeling of “active calm” and stillness to ephemeral designs outside the Zen arts?

It’s a quality overlooked in many website designs; we’re often so focussed on impact, or trying to accomodate competing needs on the one page, that this simplicity is lost. I think it’s worth reviewing your designs for what can be REMOVED as well as what more can be added.

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