Even a chimp can write code

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Things Every Designer Should Know...

A List Apart brings back Dean Allen's 2001 article called "Reading Design" which talks about the goal of communication design to to make vital, engaging work intended above all to be read. He raises some important issues:
How can you design for the web if you can’t code? How can you direct photography if you’ve never worked in a darkroom? How can you design text if you’re not a careful reader?

Allen follows up with some pearls of wisdom in the form of An Entirely Incomplete List of Things a Non–Illiterate Designer Should Know Before Being a Designer:
  • That text will inevitably be read before it is looked at

  • That words themselves make remarkably effective clip art

  • That the self-conscious layering of messages usually subtracts more value than it adds

  • That the practical value of white space towers over its value as a design element

  • That the deep symbolism of a design decision, referring perhaps to a treasured memory of the designer, is irrelevant to the person attempting to glean something from the work

  • That print designers who gauge their work on the screen, and web designers who gauge their work exclusively on their own machines, are arrogant in their disregard

  • That the physiobiology of reading is one that demands easy points of exit and entry

  • That simply paying attention to the design of type, or distinguishing it as "fine" or "invisible" or "classical" is like making a big deal about putting salt on a boiled egg

  • That letters are not pictures of things, but things

  • That words are not things, but pictures of things

  • That arbitrarily altering (or allowing software to alter) the shapes of letters, and the spacing between letters and words, is done at one's own

  • That emphasis comes at a cost

  • That overstating the obvious can be effective, but not all the time

  • The precise point at which a quantity of information no longer requires assistance to be differentiated from another

  • The knowledge to back up design decisions clearly without falling into a fog of hidden meaning, or so-called "creativity"



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