10 Things that Make or Break a Design

5 Things that Make a Design | 5 Things that Break it

1. Makes it: A well thought out color palette
2. Breaks it: Too many different fonts
3. Makes it: Hierarchy of every element
4. Breaks it: Pixelated Pictures
5. Makes it: Research on the Target Audience
6. Breaks it: Inconsistency
7. Makes it: It makes you think
8. Breaks it: Airs (Errors)
9. Makes it: Intentional Humor or Wit
10. Breaks it: When it doesn’t make you feel anything


What Makes a Design

When I look at a design, whether that be a logo, a brochure or a business card that someone hands me, I can tell you what works for the design and what might not. As a designer, it’s also key to know when a design is a good design and how to appreciate it. During my time as a graphic designer through school and employment, I’ve gained an opinion of what “makes a design.”

In my eyes, I feel that a design should work from a color palette that is meaningful and will enhance the text or imagery used. The five most effective color palettes are monochromatic, complementary, analogous, triad and neutral.

Picking fonts can be super fun and it’s extremely important to the voice of the design. Try using a single font in a design or mixing 2 to 3 fonts to create different attitudes and relationships within the design. If you choose to use more than one font, I would highly recommend using a quality mix of font types. A few font types include sans serif, serif, and script.

Hierarchy makes an entire design. The definition of visual hierarchy is as follows: “Visual hierarchy is an important concept in the field of graphic design, a field that specializes in visual organization. Designers attempt to control visual hierarchy to guide the eye to information in a specific order for a specific purpose.” Thank you, Wikipedia.

Pixelation occurs in photographs when you’ve decided to use an image that has too few pixels to make up the image, resulting in seeing the squares of color making up the picture. This definitely breaks a design.

Before plunging into the bright creative juices set before you, be sure to know your audience. You will save time, money and energy if you research your target audience before you start designing anything! When I’m first asked to design something, I don’t just start designing. First, I ask questions and asking about the clients’ audience is a huge step forward.

If all my branding collateral looked different, it would be chaos. You always want your things to look like a family. Obviously in a family, each individual does things a little differently or look a little different, but if you put them together or you saw them around town, you would know they belonged together. Same goes for branding a business. Allow things to look like a family and let your audience get to know your brand.

I crave designs that make me think a little. Like the FedEx logo and the “hidden” arrow – I hope you know about it! If you didn’t get it, you’ll still get what it says, but if you really looked at it or noticed the arrow, it was like a little achievement for your brain. People love to feel smart, so give them a challenge (something more than 50% of society can get).

Please spellcheck. If there are numerous errors in your design, people will notice and people will not be happy. There’s this really cool app that I use (because no one is perfect!), it’s called Grammarly.

If you can make a design purposely humor someone, good job! Be witty with your creativeness, it usually goes a long way. (This is also an extension of making people think with design).

If your design didn’t make someone feel something, then your design was not effective.

“Good design is about effective communication, not decoration at the expense of legibility.”  ~ Vitaly Friedman

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