Join Justin Seeley for an in-depth discussion in this video What makes a design great?, part of Introduction to Graphic Design (2016).
- [Instructor] If I were to ask you, what makes a design great? What would you say? Off the top of your head, that's probably a pretty tough question to answer. You'll probably say something like, oh, it needs to look good, or it needs to attract my eye, or something to that effect. Well, in fact, most people don't really know great design until it's staring them in the face. But in this movie, I'll be breaking down three basic elements that you should be looking for that make up good design. And I'll also give you some examples of designs that I found that fall in line with all three.
Good design follows what I like to call the F3 rule, which stands for form, feeling, and function. Form refers to the aesthetic part of the design, meaning what it looks like. In order to exhibit good form, a design must be visually appealing to the audience with a good color palate and well thought out typography. While aesthetics are one of the main things we think about when we talk about design, they're definitely not the only piece to the puzzle. Steve Jobs once said that the "Design is not "just what it looks like and feels like.
"Design is how it works." One of the other pieces that makes a great design work is the feeling. When we talk about the feeling of a design, we're referring to whether or not it stays on message. If there's a consistent mood that it creates, and whether or not that mood evokes the proper emotional response from the intended audience. Donald A. Norman once said, we have to be aware of this as designers and learn how to affect and guide the emotions of those who view our work. The final element in the F3 rule is function.
Function refers to how something works, and whether or not it serves its intended purpose. That means being easy to read and understand, and also that the form is executable within the given medium in which it is to be presented. For instance, is this artwork reproducible on a billboard? Will this typeface work on this packaging design? One of my favorite quotes on function, which sadly, I'm unable to attribute, says that form without function is just a pretty sheet of paper.
You know, that's very true. You should always be aware of what you're design is supposed to do and where the finished piece is supposed to go. Keep that in the back of your head throughout the design process, so you can better match the form to the intended function of the finished piece. All right, now that we understand the three basic elements of good design, let's take a look at some examples that I've collected in four main categories, ads, business cards, brochures, and logos. We'll start out with print advertisements.
I'm just gonna go through a few of these, let you look at them, and I'll talk a little bit about why I think they're good. Here we have an ad for a MINI Cooper. This came out around the time of Halloween. It's gotta a nice playful feel. You can see the typography is very clear, very easy to read. Everything really has its place here. The form is great. The function is basically to get you excited about this playful brand. Well, nothing's more playful than an upside down car, and this was printed as a poster that was hung up in several subway stations, it was also, I believe, on billboards and things like that, so it does serve a purpose.
It serves its intended purpose well. It was coming out right around Halloween so it ties into that. As you can see here, it's got a very nice overarching theme. It's just a very cool piece with a nice little playful design. Second up is one that when you first look at it, you might think this isn't great design. It's an ad for a blender. And you're looking at that and you're like wait a minute, what? This is an ad for a blender? But hear me out. The only part of this that even tells you that it's about a blender is the bottom right hand corner where (chuckles), where it actually has the name of the company and the blender.
But it's a play on words. It's a strawberry banana how do you do that? You put that in a blender. So this is just a iconic symbol that people will immediately see, recognize. There's not a whole lot going on here, but it's instantly memorable. It's got great form. The function is to get you intrigued, and that's exactly what you're doing here. You're very intrigued. Why is this banana look like this? And then in the bottom right hand corner, you look, and there it is. It draws you into that corner so that you can figure out what this is all about. Now, if I'm looking at this, my first reaction, even if I've never heard of this brand before is to search for the name, just because this is such a creative piece.
Now we've got one of the most iconic design agencies in the world, Nike. Nike's creative department does an amazing job without even using words sometimes which is really, kind of crazy. You see here on this ad, you've got the splashes of colors indicating new color options for the shoe. You've got the iconic swoosh in the bottom so that it's instantly recognizable. This is a brand that you know, that you trust, that you get excited about. So without even saying anything, there's no typography to read here, there's nothing to really comprehend or understand, it's just something to get you excited about the product.
The function here is to get you interested, to make you kind of look at it, and just wonder, like how are they doing that with all the splashes of colors and whatnot, and then, of course, to draw you into that check mark to say, uh, it's a Nike shoe, cool. Let's go check out those shoes. So again, another iconic piece of design. Now, ads are usually simple and iconic. They're also representative of the brand, as you saw in the Nike brand ad, and also the MINI Cooper ad. Then they're also able to tell story without using very many words.
As you saw in all three of those ads that I showed you there, there's not a whole lot of words anywhere on those pages. And just take a look at any billboard as you drive down the road, they know you only have a fraction of time to see what they're selling. So they want to make as big an impact on you as possible without distracting you on the road. Business cards on the other hand, completely different story. Take a look at these examples here. Here we've got a nice business card which basically uses the concept of positive and negative to show the front and backside of the card.
On the front side you've got a small, very subtle version of the logo, nice contrast with dark background, white typeface. You flip it over on the back and you've got the name of the person, all of their information. Again, black type on white background, it's the negative of the front. Very good use of white space there. Then on this one right here, we've got a more playful design, almost like they've hand-written this. And of course the call to action right there on the front. Very basic here, but very impactful. Look at that big arrow pointing you right there.
Hey, email me! Hey, call me! Then you've got this one right here which is my favorite because not only does this make good use of the white space, and does it provide a ton of information, it's got the name, it's got the address, it's got the phone number, it's also got the email address, but check out around the edges of this. Obviously, this person is into construction. He's a builder, so he's used this business card to make it almost look like a section from a ruler, which I think is genius because that's what these guys do, they bring out the ruler, the tape measure, protractors, whatever these guys use to design and build houses or offices or whatever they're doing.
And that is just a tremendous use of the space, and also a great way to provide a little bit of extra context in the business card, as well. When you're dealing with business cards, business cards should be clean, elegant and above all legible. They should also be informative. People want and need business cards in order to gain valuable information about you or your business. Don't make them have to hunt that down. Business cards can and should also be unique. Nowadays, with modern printing technologies, you aren't just limited to standard 3.5 inch designs of the old days.
Think outside the box and come up with your own idea. Although digital publishing is all the rage now, printed books and brochures are still commonplace throughout the world. Check out some of these examples that I found while doing research for this course. Here's an interesting brochure. This is for a farmer's market, and as you can see, it's very bright, very colorful, but at the same time, uses a dark background to create really heavy contrast. This is a great example of using contrast in design. Everything in this piece screams contrast.
It's also very fun, very light, and it makes you excited to go to whatever event this is. You can see here, they're making good use on the cover to give you something very interesting, visually appealing to look at. It does also give you some information, it says, rain or shine, every Sunday. Let's you know that it's a farmer's market right there off the jump. Then you've got on the back a calendar of events which is well spaced, well thought out, the type has nice hierarchy, so you can see the date, where it's located, and you can see all the information about the individual events very nice and spaced out.
Now we can't see a whole lot about the inside, but what we can see is we have nice accent pieces underneath and on top of the text elements. Continuing the theme of that fun vector artwork look throughout the entire piece and then you've got nice, looks like well-thought out typography with contrast differentiating between different parts of the text making it very easy for you to go from section to section. Next up we've got this interesting piece, which is actually a book you can see here, that this is a portfolio, of sorts.
And this is a printed book. I love the look and feel of this. The cover design screams graphic design, I mean, what about does not. Looks like pixels, it looks like paint, it looks like color swatches, this is all very much in the realm of graphic design. And then on the inside, you've got a nice mosaic of the different pieces that this illustrator has created. You've also got different sections which are differentiated by the big numbers, and then underneath there telling you exactly what you're getting ready to look at. So illustrations, artwork, then you've got page numbers down her at the bottom with a nice little call out right there to show you where the page is.
This is a great example of using big, bright, bold typography mixed with interesting visuals. The only thing that I would say about this one is I just don't know where to look. There's so much going on all at one time that it's just very enchanting. And so creating something like this, where there's visual appeal at every single turn really keeps your viewer engaged. Our final piece here is a menu design. Now this is something that you may want to take note of given the project that we're gonna be working on later.
Notice that the menu design here has a big photo of some of the food in the background. Very important as a restaurant, I think, to include some pictures of the dishes that you serve, maybe in some of the table settings, maybe some photos from the actual restaurant itself. Then it's got information about the restaurant right there at the very top. It's fresh, always fresh ingredients. Then it's got information about the restaurant, where it's located, phone number, hours of operation. Then at the bottom, it's got the logo, nice, simple, iconic, very contrasted with the white background that it's on.
Move down to the bottom, the inside of the menu, you've got nice accents on either side, almost like bookends with the plates on either side there. And inside, all information about the food that is going on in this particular establishment. Well laid out, nice use of white space, nice contrast, light background, dark type, this is a really good example of a very well done menu. Now when we're talking about brochures, brochures need to be extremely well organized, and also visually appealing.
It's an information document. People need and want to read it, and they also need to be able to read it. Always create your brochures with the end user in mind, that means doing your due diligence with clients and understanding their target audience before you begin the project. I also think brochures should be easily read and scannable. You want people to be comfortable whether they're sitting in to read the whole thing or simply skimming around trying to find one specific section of the layout. All right, now let's move onto, probably my favorite piece of the design world, logos.
Let's start off here with this logo for Seed Sumo. Obviously, it's very easy to understand the visual elements here. You've got a sumo wrestler carrying a big seed. We know that this is a seed because it's got a little plant sprig coming out of it to indicate that that's what that is. It makes great use of geometric shapes here. Everything's sort of flows together in a circular type look and feel. Then you've got nice type set away from the logo element, well spaced, well set, very nice. Next up, Meatlovers.
This is another one that I think makes good use of space and also incorporates a lot of different concepts. So we've got type, meatlovers gourmet burgers. 'Kay, let's think about what that might look like. Well, you might think, well where's the burger? Well, check it out. Here, in these little heart elements at the very top, the top heart, kind of colored the same color as bread. The second heart, that's green that represents lettuce, purple for onions, red for tomatoes. This is the top 1/2 of a sandwich, and they're in heart shapes so they love meat, they love sandwich, you're getting the idea here.
That's what logos should do. Logos should make you think, but at the same time be easy enough so that after just a second or two, you instantly understand what it is, and then you'll recognize it forever. Next up here, Dolly's Kitchen. This is another favorite of mine because it incorporates a lot of cool things. It's got the rolling pin up front which is a great place to put the word kitchen. And you've got Dolly's arc over the top of what initially, I thought was doughnut, but I've since come to understand that this is actually a cupcake with sprinkles and cherry on top.
So again, nice use of the space, way to incorporate the type into the actual design elements. You don't have any need here for any type of type underneath or around this object. It's all incorporated into the shape itself, making that a super easy and iconic piece. Now logos need to be instantly recognizable. People should take one look at it and go, oh yeah, that company, I know who that is. Think about Apple, Coca-Cola, BMW. When you see the logos for a companies like that, you instantly know the brand to which they are attached.
Logos should also be easily repurposed, which means they should look good on a website, a business card, or even a billboard. Finally, logos should also strive to be timeless and appropriate. Now that's not easy to do if you're someone who constantly hops on every single design trend. Look at companies like Nike, that swoosh has been around since 1971 and it's still as relevant today as it was back then. That's the kind of staying power you should strive for when you're creating a logo. So what makes a design great? Well, the real answer is a lot, but fortunately, now that you understand it, you'll almost always know it when you see it.
Note: These tutorials were revised in 2016 to make sure they are current with the latest version of Adobe Creative Cloud. Mini Bridge was retired this year, so Justin uses alternate methods to open and organize assets.
- Understanding the impact of color
- Sketching your ideas
- Removing unwanted objects from images
- Cropping and editing photos in Photoshop
- Resizing and saving images for print
- Drawing basic shapes in Illustrator
- Creating a custom color theme with swatches
- Setting type
- Building wireframes
- Creating tables in InDesign
- Preflighting documents
- Packaging files for print