Basics of Design Part 2: How to Think Like a Designer

September 17, 2018 - Reading Time: 3 minutes

In part one, we talked about the 5 principles of design. In part two, we will delve deeper into how you can go from someone who knows how to use Photoshop to a full-fledged designer.

Being a good designer goes beyond one’s mastery of Photoshop. It is about creating works that don’t just look nice but function as they should. Here is the essential beginner’s guide to thinking like a designer and creating effective designs for marketing.

1. Form always follows function

Michael Beitz’s “avoid conversation” dining table

The first thing you need to know is that your designs should always fit the purpose of whatever it is you’re designing. If you’re designing a cup, you need to remember that at the end of the day, it has to function effectively as something you can drink from. Giving it an uneven base, for example, is not practical and is just bad design no matter how aesthetically pleasing.

This rule of thumb applies to all kinds of design including marketing. A brochure has to be portable, an event poster has to be attractive and they both have to be legible. A pragmatic design doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be boring – a good designer is one who knows how to balance aesthetics and practicality.

2. Pay attention to context

You need to take into account where your design will be placed and how people will interact with it. For example, if you’re designing a billboard where people have just a few seconds to take it in, you might consider a design that makes use of scale to capture attention. If you’re designing a Facebook ad, using movement like simple animations could get people to stop scrolling.

However, you still need to make sure your designs correspond with brand guidelines. This brings us to the next point.

3. Refer to the brand book

Every brand should have a brand book. It details the use of your logo, colour scheme and typeface. If you’re working on a project for a client, you should adhere to the directions stated in their brand book. This helps build and maintain brand integrity. Try to also use brand colours in collateral designs as it promotes brand recognition. Check out Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Facebook page – notice how most of their visuals incorporate their purple brand colour.

Apart from colours, pay attention to brand personality and tone of voice – they should also inform your designs. For example, you shouldn’t use a playful typeface or bright colours if the brand is meant to be serious. Conversely, you wouldn’t use a serious design for a playful, youthful brand.

4. Stay updated on design trends

You can do this by visiting websites such as Behance, Dribbble and Muzli that showcase works of other designers spanning across all subfields – from graphic to industrial design. It’s a good way to get inspired and stay up to date on the latest design trends. Behance and Dribble are also great sites to host your portfolio and share your projects with the online community.

Another way to keep up is to read blogs like Creative Bloq and High On Design which contain a host of information on design – from trend reports to neat tips.

5. Be open to feedback

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

-Winston Churchill-

You should never shy away from getting feedback – good or bad. We know it’s hard to listen to criticism, especially when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a project but that’s the only way to get better. As beginners, you’re going to create a ton of bad designs before you create a good one. So don’t take negative feedback personally; see it as an opportunity to get better. And you will get better, just keep at it.

So there you have it folks – the five things to keep in mind to become a better designer. Now it’s time to start dabbling and creating!

If you’ve got any other tips, do share them in the comments below.


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