Work

Reading for Better Design Sensibility

Though I am not schooled in design (one unsuccessful year at art school does not count), my work involves conversing with designers or applying design principles to outputs like websites, presentations, charts and documents. This is pretty standard nowadays for communications professionals.

We employ the skills of designers, either within our own teams or through outsourcing, but as one of our roles are as conduits between our clients and creatives, the ability to make judgments regarding design – and be able to clearly communicate the drivers behind those decisions – are becoming more important.

One way I continue to hone my design eye is through reading about principles of good design and learning from those I would consider to be “masters”. Besides taking a course, I believe this is the easiest and cheapest that non-designers and professional lay people are able to improve their design thinking and sharpen their intuition.

If you care about the quality of your deliverables, understanding the principles of design will help produce work that not only looks better but communicates better.

I would, however, like to highlight that though you will find much opinion on the Internet rating what is good and not-so-good design, reading trade publications and visiting websites of top design companies and blogs of renown designers provide a more developed perspective and higher calibre of work. There is a lot of creativity and talent online, but we only have so much time; so identify who does the best work in the field of your interest and learn from there.

Reading for better design sensibility is lot more than simply looking at pictures. Saying that a layout looks good and being able to appreciate an aesthetic is not enough if we are interested in developing the ability to make calls about design. I find that many designers are weak in their ability to articulate principles behind their designs and this results in average work.

There is no premise for what they choose they do other than it “looks good”, which when one considers it is personal opinion. On occasion this can cause good work to be disregarded by your client because of the lack of ability to defend and explain the approach. I find that in my own practice, which is a major driver for this type of self-improvement. I’d like to see better work out there and like any change, one has to start at the self.

If you care about the quality of your deliverables, understanding the principles of design will help produce work that not only looks better but communicates better. As a reader, I am sure your audience is diverse and different from mine, but I am sure that our jobs involve conveying ideas and information in some way. It may not be to the masses, but to our peers or customers, or even our families (thanks mum for all those developed activity charts I used as a child). Beautiful and concise communication is always a pleasure to discover and interact with. It is one way small way we can contribute to better experiences.

Here are my picks for starters:


100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design

Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne

Envisioning Information
Edward Tufts

Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art
Paul Rand

The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color
Johannes Itten

Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers
Josef Muller-Brockmann

Which design book would you recommend?

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