Simple design is the result of, and provides, focus.
Simplicity allows people to focus on one thing. Conversely, focusing on one thing helps achieve Simplicity.
If you’re not focused on the right things, it’s too easy to slip into the complicated.
Good communication strives for clarity. Design is its most brilliant when it appears most obvious—most simple. The question for web designers should never be how complex can we make it. But that's what it has become. Just as, in pursuit of “delight,” we forget the true joy reliable, invisible interfaces can bring, so too, in chasing job security, do we pile on the platform requirements, forgetting that design is about solving business and customer problems ... and that baseline skills never go out of fashion.
When great visual design occurs ... I fall so in love with it that I can, if I'm not careful, forget my primary responsibility as a UX designer and creative director.
Focus your efforts earlier in the process and simple design is easier.
I find that the more input I have in the content and strategy of the project, the less burden I place on the aesthetics. Perhaps this is because I believe the aesthetic of the work should be an extension of its objectives, so if you get the strategy right, the look follows.
Spend a lot of time choosing that one thing that a piece of design or an illustration should try to do. Then, work your ass off trying to figure out the absolute best way to do that one thing.
Focus on the purpose.
Think more, design less. Many desperate acts of design (including gradients, drop shadows, and the gratuitous use of transparency) are perpetrated in the absence of a strong concept. A good idea provides a framework for design decisions, guiding the work.
The purpose of your design also needs to be focused.
Be mindful of the fact that every time you attempt to communicate more than one thing, you're splintering the attention of those you're talking to — whether they're customers or colleagues. If it's necessary to deliver multiple messages, find a common theme that unites them all and push hard on that idea. You want people to remember what you say — and the more you cram into your communication, the more difficult you make it for them. Remember that a sea of choices is no choice at all. The more you can minimize your proposition, the more attractive it will be.
Basecamp’s Jonas Downey told me that focus was key to their product.
Having a strong editorial sensibility, and knowing when to split complex concepts into simpler individual parts. This one is more of an art than a science, but we have a good instinct for breaking down problems until they can be easily understood in simple UI flows.
This principle extends to your visual design.
Whitespace is not so much a luxury as it is a prerequisite. Every pixel of whitespace around the text can help the reader stay focused instead of wandering off.
It might feel wasteful to not use the space. But it directs the user’s attention to the right things.
The opportunity lost by increasing the amount of blank space is gained back with enhanced attention on what remains. More white space means that less information is presented. In turn, proportionately more attention shall be paid to that which is made less available. When there is less, we appreciate everything much more ... Creating white space ... enables the foreground to stand out from the background.
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