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How to Evaluate Design Quality with the 5 Characteristics of Good Design

How to Evaluate Design Quality with 5 Characteristics of Good Design

Graphic design
March 18, 2022
9 minutes

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If you run a business, chances are you’re in constant need of design. Good design (to be more precise) since that will help your business grow. Understanding and recognizing quality design can put you one step ahead of your competitors.

We’re constantly surrounded by both good and bad design. With this abundance of visual impressions, evaluating which design belongs to which category is not an easy task.

When it comes to operating a successful business, great design is crucial. And so, spending a little time learning about design can make a tremendous impact.

What is good design?

Many people have tried to establish an answer to the question ‘What is good design?’. Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design is the most well-known answer. According to this German architect and designer, there are 10 principles that determine what makes a good design.

In the late 1970s, Rams grew concerned with the world around him. He described his surroundings as: “An impenetrable confusion of forms, colors, and noises.”

Well aware that as an architect and a designer, he was contributing directly to his surroundings, he decided to take precautions. This was when he established the 10 principles of good design.

The 10 principles of good design

According to the principles established by Dieter Rams, good design…

  1. is innovative
  2. makes a product useful
  3. is aesthetic
  4. makes a product understandable
  5. is unobtrusive
  6. is honest
  7. is long-lasting
  8. is thorough down to the last detail
  9. is environmentally friendly
  10. is as little design as possible

You may notice that some principles are a little cryptic or subjective. Especially as a design rookie, these principles aren’t the most accessible guidelines to determine whether a design is good or bad.

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You may notice that some principles are a little cryptic or subjective. Especially as a design rookie, these principles aren’t the most accessible guidelines to determine whether a design is good or bad.

But Rams isn’t the only one who delved into evaluating design. As a company designing for clients worldwide, we took a plunge into the wonderful world of good design ourselves. The result? Five characters that even a layman designer can instantly detect.

Five characteristics of good design

You may argue that good design is subjective. After all, the colors that you love may be despised by others. However, there are a few characteristics that, in our humble opinion, all good design should adhere to.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a go at designing yourself or decide to outsource your graphic design needs. Knowing these characteristics will help you evaluate any design.

Fulfills a purpose

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Every design has a purpose. To evaluate design, you first need to know the intended purpose and check if it’s fulfilled.

This characteristic is a blend of 3 of the principles Rams established. A good design should make something useful, understandable, and unobtrusive.

Design isn’t just about colors and beautiful images. At its core, it’s all about solving problems with visual solutions.

Next time you look at a design, ask yourself: what does the design need to achieve? Take packaging that protects a product or a banner advertising a brand, for example. If the design fulfills its purpose, we can safely say that it’s a big step towards good design.

Easy to understand

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Design should be easy to comprehend at all times. If you have a landing page that isn’t clearly stating a call-to-action or a dense block of text that isn’t legible, you can instantly put it on the bad design pile.

The visual hierarchy of a design plays a significant role here. Good designs have a focal point, like a big header or a contrasting button. This will catch the eye of the audience and instantly inform them of what’s expected of them.

You take a big risk if you have a cluttered design that costs some extra effort to comprehend. Clutter and obtrusion are clear signs of bad graphic design. Our attention spans become increasingly shorter, so design that isn’t instantly clear will lose you the majority of your audience.

Aesthetically pleasing

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When it comes to evaluating design, this is probably the most subjective characteristic. What looks amazing to some can look hideous to another. However, a few basic principles give us some guidance.

Good design should adhere to the basic design principles. By doing so, you’ll have an aesthetically pleasing design, ready to grab your audience’s attention.

CRAP.png

A mnemonic if you’re new to design is checking if the design is C.R.A.P.

  • Contrast - Is there enough contrast between each of the different visual elements?
  • Repetition - Does the design show a certain flow by implementing repetition and rhythm among visual elements?
  • Alignment - Is there order and organization in the design due to the proper use of alignment?
  • Proximity - In what proximity are the elements placed, and does this create a connection between elements?

Audience appropriate

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Who is your design intended for? This is almost as important as the purpose of your design. If your target audience is 65+, but your color palette screams preschool kids, you’re not coming across as very trustworthy.

Take these steps, and you’ll be ensured of audience appropriate design:

  1. Define your audience - In addition to your audience’s demographics, you need to dig a little deeper. What drives them? What are their beliefs and values? With which other companies are they engaging?
  2. Create personas - Step into the shoes of your users/buyers. Dream up some real-life scenarios and play them out. What happens when your persona gets to your landing page? How smoothly can they find your services?
  3. Put your preferences aside - Evaluate the design by its target audience rather than your own preferences. Remember that your design is intended for your audience. What matches their expectations?
  4. Speak their language - A millennial has a different vocabulary than a boomer. See how your audience converses with peers and with brands. Now is a great time to look at your competitors’ social pages. What works, and what doesn’t?
  5. Pick your visual elements accordingly - A young audience will love animations, but an older audience may just get annoyed by them. Now that you know exactly who your audience is, you can start picking out colors, typography, and graphics that match.

Learn how to use informal communication to attract customers

Get acquainted with communication strategies that will humanize your brand

Original

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While nothing is truly original, it’s essential to know the fine line between taking inspiration and downright copying someone’s work. As a designer, it’s imperative since you could get into legal trouble if you blindly use copyrighted work.

Being original also depends on the design. Is it a logo? Then you better make sure every aspect is unique. Your logo should be a perfect visualization of your brand. And since your brand is unique, your logo should be, too.

However, when pairing two fonts, you can definitely take inspiration from someone else. Trust us; you won’t be the first or the last!

The importance of good design

Now that you know what makes a good design, be prepared to start looking at design in a different way.

Where you used to just have a general glance to see if you liked something, you’ll start evaluating like a pro. And that’s a good thing because a slight design slip-up could lead you straight down a path of bad design.

Bad graphic design can cause confusion and frustration among your audience, which is the last thing you want. There are numerous algorithms at play, judging your brand on social media and in search engines. With bad graphic design, your brand will be overlooked and become insignificant to the majority of your target audience.

At the end of the day, you’re running a business, and you want it to be a success. Good design can help you achieve that. Let’s chat about the importance of good design.

It helps you make a solid first impression

Your design can make or break the first impression customers get from your brand. The logo you use, colors, typography; everything is judged in a split second. If you display fantastic design, you stand out from your competitors - within milliseconds.

You gain trust and recognition from your customers

Showing impactful and emotional connection in the visual display of your brand is a fantastic way to let the world know what you’re all about. If your design shows your values, you’ll show people what principles they connect with if they engage with your brand.

Relationships are based on emotion, so customers often emotionally connect to a brand. Good design is the foundation to build that emotional connection on.

Good design makes you money

With striking visuals, your brand can increase demand, deliver a better experience and create happy customers. Good design can help your brand become more successful and, ultimately, make you more money.

Let’s go over a little hypothetical scenario that ensues after you start using good design. You post your striking visuals on social media. People like what they see, so they start engaging with the posts. They like, comment - if you’re lucky, you might even get a share.

Suddenly, your post is pushed by algorithms onto the feed of other people. They are intrigued and start checking out your website. There, you meet them with even more stunning designs. You show them what you’re worth, one beautiful design after another.

People will feel like they can trust you. Therefore, they start buying your product or service. If you’ve really thought your designs through, you’ll throw in excellent customer service and unique little extras. Ultimately, this will lead to a loyal following and happy returning customers. Success!

How you can access good design

Did all this talk about the technicalities and the importance of well-executed design make you feel a little overwhelmed? We understand. It’s not an easy task to find high-quality design, let alone design it yourself.

Find out how and where to outsource your graphic design needs

Download our guide to find a solution that suits your business

Here at ManyPixels, we run a subscription-based design service. To make design more accessible to people like you, without you having to break the bank or know everything about design.

Our flexible plans offer various options to fit your design needs. You have a team of driven and experienced designers at your fingertips for a flat monthly fee.

No matter the number of design requests you submit, your monthly fee will remain the same. Does that sound like something your brand could use? We’ll gladly show you the ropes via a live demo.

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Guest Writer: Simone Timmers

March 18, 2022

Simone is a Dutch writer, currently living in Malawi. Whenever not stringing words together, or on her yoga mat, she is preferably exploring any off the beaten track she can find.