Top 10 “Great Design” Tools

May 3, 2012 Cyril Philpose

Recently, I attended some customer testing for a US-based Prinova client, and I came to one very basic conclusion: Most people can generally differentiate between something poorly designed and something designed well.

In our case we were testing banking statement redesign concepts. Our respondents were able to isolate statement designs that appealed to them from those that didn’t very easily. In general, their selections nicely aligned with our notions of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ as well. The contemplative pause came with the follow up question around our ‘good’ concepts: “So… can you explain why you like this statement design?”

That question was much harder to answer. Some suggested the fonts were a little more appealing and modern. Some commented that the presentation seemed more organized, easier to read, used color better etc. – but no one could definitively isolate more than two or three of the key differentiating design factors that brought them to that conclusion with certainty.

This illustrates one main point. Good design should just work. It should convey a message, serve its purpose, promote a call to action and it should allow the recipient to naturally engage. To get to there, there are some basic guidelines and principles that you can employ.

So what’s in a design team’s ‘toolkit’? How do you achieve good design and then validate that it truly is good? While there’s a danger of over-simplifying this process, I’ve developed a shortlist of 10 key factors that are important design considerations – especially in the area of compliance and transpromo design. Stay tuned for more on each of these topics in the days to come!

  1. Discovery – Understand your users, define constraints and set goals
  2. Grid-based design – Develop an underlying structure
  3. Applying fonts and styles – Use them wisely and understand the legalities
  4. Hierarchy development – Define importance
  5. Navigational devices – Lead and train the reader
  6. Whitespace management – White space is your friend, not your enemy
  7. Using colour – Apply colour judiciously
  8. Using stock imagery – Considerations for sourcing and formatting imagery
  9. Developing content – Plain language writing
  10. User testing – When to do it, how to do it and why it’s important

 

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