Deciding What's Good: Design Principles

Design is (by nature) a subjective thing. It's also a team sport. When making design decisions about look or feel or content, disagreement is common and tensions can emerge. So how do you decide what "good" is for your product?

Good design happens when a good user experience meets a solid brand identity. There are a lot of published "best practices for design" available, but simply following the basic standards won't get you to great design. Great design happens when you define what good means specifically for your product, and then nail it.

In this lesson, you'll see common principles for good design, and you'll learn how to set your own standards so that subjective decisions don't stall you or tear your team to shreds... they launch you to awesome design.

  1. Basic Visual Design Principles

    Get used to describing design based on underlying principles. Write out the seven principles and then look at a recent design you've done. Put a checkmark by any principles that are at play in your design. Then, verbally describe your design to a friend or teammate, using the principles in your description.

  2. The 10 Principles of Good Design

    Dieter Rams has designed an astounding number of iconic products. First, watch the video (you can skip ahead to 4:30, where the good stuff starts.) Use his 10 principles to review a design you are working on. How well does it reflect these principles? Pick one principle, and consider changes you could make to your design to bring it more into line with the principle. (Here's a reference list of the 10 Principles.)

  3. Roll-your-own Design Principles

    Luke's article has lots of design principles examples from different companies. Use the example principles to come up with a set of your own. Aim for 5-7 (no more than 10!) Write these down and put them on a wall near where you work.

    Want more tips? Stephen P. Anderson has lots in his fantastic Slideshare: Principles to Build By

  4. The Wonderful World of Design Critiques

    Write down 3-4 specific questions you want answered, and host a 10-minute design critique. Bonus: Use the session to practice describing how the elements contribute to or detract from design principles. Use sentences that link your feedback to your principles. For example, "This screen is too dark because it doesn't correspond with our principle of 'light and open' "

  5. Take it to Lickable

    At PatientsLikeMe, buttons are "lickable." At Luxr, we want to banish "wandery-squanderness." What unique words do you use to communicate design? Listen to how you and members of your team describe design, and see if you can coin a word or phrase that is unique to you.

Finally, an easy to follow design course

Receive a design lesson in your inbox each week, hand crafted by a design pro. Learn at your own pace, and apply it to your real life work – no fake projects here.

No spam ever. We promise.