Category: Design

This category features articles on general design principles, Web design, typography, user interface design and related topics. It also presents design showcases and practical pieces on the business side of design. Curated by Alma Hoffmann.

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Case-Study: Deconstructing Popular Websites

In our past articles, we've experimented with better ways to engage users on web pages with CSS3. We love getting into the nuts and bolts of web design by showing off some nifty coding tricks. In this article we'll take a step back to provide some reasoning for designers to embark on that next redesign.

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Great web design happens with sound user needs, solid business goals and focused metrics. Learning how to deconstruct a website is an important step in building a plan that aligns the company vision with the needs of users. A good review will put the focus on the profitability of the business.

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Imagine A Pie Chart Stomping On An Infographic Forever

A certain category of design gaffes can be boiled down to violations of audience expectations. Websites that don't work in Internet Explorer are a heck of a nasty surprise for users who, bless their souls, want the same Internet experience as everyone else. Websites that prevent copying, whether through careless text-as-image conversions or those wretched copyright pop-ups from the turn of the century, cripple a feature that works nearly everywhere else on the Internet. Avoiding this category of blunders is crucial to good design, which is why I am upset that one particular pitfall has been overlooked with extreme frequency.

Statistical literacy is the ability to read and interpret summary statistics in the everyday media: in graphs, tables, statements, surveys and studies. Statistical literacy is needed by data consumers.

The importance of statistical literacy in the Internet age is clear, but the concept is not exclusive to designers. I'd like to focus on it because designers must consider it in a way that most people do not have to: statistical literacy is more than learning the laws of statistics; it is about representations that the human mind can understand and remember.

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The Current State of Web Design: Trends 2010

Web design is a fickle industry. Just like every other form of artistic expression, Web design has undergone a continuous and surprisingly fast evolution. Once a playground for enthusiasts, it has now become a mature rich medium with strong aesthetic and functional appeal. In fact, we are experiencing what could be the golden era of Web design — or at least the best period thus far. We have powerful new tools at our disposal (CSS3, HTML5, font-embedding, etc.), a plethora of freely available resources, a strong design community and also (if you needed any more!) reliable support of Web standards in the major browsers.

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We're seeing better interaction design and more aesthetically pleasing designs. And we're seeing more personal, engaging and memorable sites, too. But what exactly is making the difference? What new directions is Web design heading in today? What new techniques, concepts and ideas are becoming important? In this article, we present some observations on the current state of Web design. We describe existing and upcoming trends and explain how Web design might evolve in the coming months and years. We'll also touch on what we as Web designers should be ready for to keep abreast of new challenges and opportunities.

Please note: this article is the first in our series on the current state of web design. To make sure you don't miss the second part, subscribe to our RSS feed and follow us on Twitter.

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Symmetry: A Balancing Act In Two (Or More) Parts

Symmetry is the ordering principle in nature that represents the center of balance between two or more opposing sides. As a fundamental design principle, it permeates everything: from man-made architecture to natural crystalline formations. In nature, symmetry exists with such precision and beauty that we can’t help but attribute it to intelligence–such equal proportions and organization would seem to be created only on purpose. Consequently, humans have borrowed this principle for its most iconic creations and symbols.

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There are several types of symmetry, but the most basic are translation, reflection and rotational. Each of them has specific and practical expressions in nature, and each can be used to communicate intuitive principles when appropriately and subtly integrated in a design. As a simple aesthetic, these opposites that work together can add visual appeal.

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Designing For A Hierarchy Of Needs

Based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the idea of a design hierarchy of needs rests on the assumption that in order to be successful, a design must meet basic needs before it can satisfy higher-level needs. Before a design can "Wow" us, it must work as intended. It must meet some minimal need or nothing else will really matter.

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Is this true? Or could a design that's hard to use still succeed because it makes users more proficient or meets certain creative needs? Do you have to get all of the low-level needs exactly right before considering higher-level needs? To answer these questions, let's start by looking at Maslow's hierarchy. In his 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation," American psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed the idea of a psychological hierarchy of needs in human beings.

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Seven Must-See Web Design Videos and Presentations

In one of our previous articles, I put together a list of 7 must-see videos related to web design. Since then, I've come across a number of other videos from conferences and events, and I thought I would share some of those here. The list includes a brief description of each video, some notable quotes from the presentations, and related links. So, sit back, take your time and enjoy some great technical insights and design principles from some well-known web designers, developers, and conference speakers.

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The Influence of Print Design, by speaker Jason Santa Maria. Part of the MFA in Interaction Design program, this is a candid and personal discussion of how print design and the technique of "storytelling" have affected the designs of the speaker in his professional career as a web designer.

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Five Tips For Making Ideas Happen

Creative types have a problem. We have so many great ideas, but most of them never see the light of day. Why do most ideas never happen? The reason is that our own creative habits get in the way. For example, our tendency to generate new ideas often gets in the way of executing the ones we have. As a result, we abandon many projects halfway through. Whether a personal website, a new business idea or a long-dreamt novel, most of these projects stagnate and become a source of frustration.

Measure Meetings With Action Steps

Some creative people and teams are able to defy the odds and make their ideas happen, time and again. In my work, I have spent the better part of five years meeting these exceptional people and chronicling their habits and insight, which has resulted in the following tips and suggestions for making ideas happen.

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Useful Design Tips For Your iPad App

With tools like Appcelerator's Titanium and some JavaScript programming skill, creating native iPhone and iPad apps is simple. The danger is in not being always on the look-out for the kind of design pitfalls that plague many products in the App Store. In this post, we'll consider some design tips that will get you on the road to iPad success.

Landscape mode in iPad

Apps will define the iPad, it's true. But in developing your app idea, which comes first, the idea or the device? Good news: neither. It's people! When brainstorming and researching ideas for your app, step back and consider the context in which the device will be used by real live people. How does the iPad fit into our lives? In what situations would we prefer this device to a laptop or iPod Touch?

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The Gradual Disappearance Of Flash Websites

If you want to "go big" visually with a website, delivering complex interaction and a rich experience across a wide range of browsers, Flash is the only way to go. Right? Nope. Given the widespread adoption and advancements of modern browsers and JavaScript libraries, using Flash makes little sense. But it does have its place on the Web, considering the need for progressive enhancement.

Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford Debating

In the current landscape of technology and accessing the Internet through devices such as picture frames, netbooks, cell phones and televisions, the benefits of Web standards outweigh those of Flash, especially when delivering content to a broad audience on various devices.

Flash is a proprietary product that sits on top of the browser to extend functionality. While Flash may have provided missing functionality for some time, it brings little value to modern browsers. As more and more designers and developers realize the benefits of Web standards and start using some of the features of HTML5 and CSS3, we’ll see fewer Flash-driven websites.

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The Dying Art Of Design

Progress is good, but we need to make sure that we're progressing in the right direction. Our fundamental skills and the craft of design have started to take a back seat. Using the right tools and techniques is certainly an important part of design. But do our tools and resources make us better designers? Taking a close look at the current state of design, we can see that sometimes modern design tools and processes do more harm than good.

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Please note that in preparing this article, we presented basic questions to designers, from beginner to expert, in an unscientific poll. Close to 600 designers participated.

As a teenager, I loved comic books: the art, the stories, the super-powers I wished I had. I remember the point when I went from reading and enjoying comics to wanting to create them. I became obsessed with being able to draw exactly like the great comic book artists of that time, people like Jim Lee.

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