Similarities

We often think of newness as something that is created from nowhere–ex nihilo. When we hear about what’s the next biggest trend or product or service, we are led to believe it has to be something never thought up before and we are sadly disappointed that the newness of things is not that big of a deal. We have to understand that when thinking of new ideas, products, or services, instead of looking for differences, try looking at similarities.

Its the similarities that create the relationship that works for us as humans and consumers of new products or services. Designers use the term design semantics. An object has to say something about itself; say something about its larger context; and about the user who interacts with it.

Design semantics is communication through displays of information; graphic elements; shape and texture; and indications of internal state (e.g. battery life left, etc…). In short, a design has to convey what it does. For example, a car has to look like it functions as a car. With typography, the letters have to be readable as letters.

As designers, we have to operate under the premise that people are stupid and consider that when designing each aspect of your work. Don’t make people think too hard. If it takes more energy to interpret your design, then your user will go elsewhere.

Similarities lead to better design semantics and a better experience.

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Optimum

Optimum is defined as the level where something is the most conducive to a favorable outcome. We are always searching and striving for the optimum level of whatever it is we are into at the time. We often associate this concept with athletics. They are the epitome of optimum and we see the results manifest themselves with being bigger, faster, stronger, etc… Find any sports highlight video snippet and you can see optimum at its finest.

We shouldn’t forget that optimum applies to all aspects of our lives as well. There is always an optimum value of all things. Keep in mind though that there is a drawback to optimum levels. Above that level, it becomes toxic and below that level it is deprived. Like calcium, water, or oxygen, there is an optimum quantity that each of us needs. Beyond that it is toxic and poisonous for us. Below that our bodies become deficient, which is just as bad.

Creativity is also subject to this natural law. I’m always striving to understand my own optimum levels of creativity. I used to think there can never be too much creativity. And, yet, I see the results of toxic levels of creativity–no common sense, overly stylized things, madness and obsession, etc… Also, on the deficient end of creativity–no spark of life, fear of trying new things, status quo, etc…

Being creative is an energy that we struggle to maintain our optimum levels with. Recognize your own levels. If you’re deficient, get inspired (recharge). If you’re toxic, then calm your mind (discharge). Stay creative at your most optimum levels and you’ll be surprised with the results.

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Energy and Balance

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Often when we design, we seek to manipulate energy and flow. This is achieved by an understanding of how to take control of the user’s eye movements. By skillfully using visual hierarchy, we bring the viewer in with a first read. Once a designer has you in the composition, they will then send you to the second read and on to the third read, etc.. Finally, there’s a call to action.

This flow in visual hierarchy can only happen if there’s a uneven distribution of visual weight. Like the physical world, an uneven distribution creates energy. Think of temperature — energy flows from hot to cold until a balance happens. As designers we purposefully manipulate this visual energy until a balance is achieved — resolution in the mind of the viewer.

As graphic designers, if we can embrace the natural order of the universe by manipulating a viewer’s curious energy and finally providing balance, visual solutions will be more successful. Balance and order is the end result of all things. As humans, we seek resolution. As designers we can take advantage of this natural human quality.

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