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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.
Has web design lost its soul? And is responsive design to blame? These questions, posed by my friend and colleague Noah Stokes, are provocative to say the least. After all, the responsive web has made browsing on our ever increasing collection of Internet-connected screens not only possible, but enjoyable.
Our priority as designers must be to solve problems; perhaps more than anything else, this is what we do. Responsive web design is a fantastic solution to the problem of creating virtual experiences that adapt to different devices. There are other problems out there that we're called on to solve, though, not least of which is to make content of all kinds appear interesting and engaging. A page of plain text becomes a beautiful blog post, a mess of unconnected JPGs becomes a professional portfolio.
A balanced composition feels right. It feels stable and aesthetically pleasing. While some of its elements might be focal points and attract your eye, no one area of the composition draws your eye so much that you can’t see the other areas.
Balancing a composition involves arranging both positive elements and negative space in such a way that no one area of the design overpowers other areas. Everything works together and fits together in a seamless whole. The individual parts contribute to their sum but don’t try to become the sum.
Galileo knew it. Every ancient culture that left traces of knowledge in their art knew it. Basic shapes compose the fundamental geometry of the universe. We can take credit for a lot of things, but human beings did not invent geometric shapes. We discovered them through the observation of nature. Understanding basic shapes and their functions have taught us to mark time and space in a variety of ways, inspiring mathematics, technology, language and ever-evolving civilization.
A handful of simple shapes have been used throughout time in the art of all cultures: the circle, intersecting lines, the triangle, the square and the spiral. Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien researched and documented commonalities in cultural art forms over several decades and found consistent geometric shapes embedded in all art. She called them the “five universal shapes.”
There are only a handful of fundamental patterns that create all of the natural diversity around us. Nature’s patterns perform three basic tasks that get the work of the universe done by moving, storing and connecting energy.
Nature communicates within an interconnected and intricate system of checks and balances to weave patterns and processes together for perfect and purposeful outcomes. Nature is the ultimate economist when it comes to creating so much from so little. Everything gets used in this supremely elegant system. Nothing is wasted. And all of it happens in the moment. We covered Symbols, Metaphors And The Power Of Intuition in the first post of the series last week; this week let's take a closer look into nature's patterns.
Animation, like any other facet of the web, mustbedesigned. As web developers, we think about the effects of typography, layout, interaction, and shifting viewports, but when incorporating animation we have another factor to consider: time.
It’s not just an extra aspect to consider, either: it increases the complexity of each of the aforementioned parameters exponentially. Rather than viewing this as a heavy mass of ideas, we can bake animation into the core of our user experience process to create dazzling, exciting, and engaging work that pushes boundaries and collectively elevates the medium of the web.
No designer creates wow work 100% of the time. There’s no question that creating good design takes significant exertion, but generating the wow factor in your work can also be fairly effortless. Many designers follow their intuition during the creative process and incorporate universal symbols and metaphors simply because it “feels right.” Intuition — accessible to all people and most especially useful to those engaged in creative pursuits — guides designers towards solutions that align with a universal knowing.
Adding a universal quality to a logo provides the broadest communicative reach, what almost all identities are intended to accomplish. The intellectual exercise of connecting the dots of “thinking” is not irrelevant in design, of course — particularly when it comes to branding — but by combining the intuitive immediacy of symbols and metaphors with strategic thinking, you integrate essential information that helps your logo stand out and be remembered.
Having the ability to set legible body copy is an absolute must, and we’ve come a long way with web typography since the dawn of web design. However, I feel like we have allowed the lack of variety prior to the rise of web fonts to dampen our creativity now that thousands of web fonts are at our disposal. Have usability conventions and the web’s universality steered us away from proper art direction? Have we forgotten about art direction altogether? I believe so.
As designers, we can achieve much more with type, and with just a little more thought and creativity, we can finally start to take full advantage of the type systems available. Let’s look at ways we can push typographic design on the web further, beyond the status quo of today.
If you’re a UX designer, you’ve probably designed a lot of forms and web (or app) pages in which the user needs to choose between options. And as a designer, you’re likely familiar with best practices for designing forms. Certainly, much has been written and discussed about this topic. So, you probably know all about how best to label and position form fields and so on for optimal usability.
But have you thought about how the design of a form affects the user’s decision-making? Have you ever considered to what extent the design itself affects the choices people make? As always in design, there are a variety of ways to design a form or web page.
I love being a web designer and I'm incredibly thankful that I decided to join this industry many years ago. Still, despite my love of this profession, there have been a number of times during my career when my passion has waned and I’ve found myself simply going through the motions instead of fully applying myself to my work. This scenario is likely familiar to many of my fellow web designers. It is called burnout.
Burnout is a very real challenge that we face as web professionals. The same processes that help us complete projects successfully can also contribute to us falling into a routine and hitting autopilot on our work. Sometimes, an overload of work can force you to fall into a routine and become a production line in order to meet deadlines. Other times, a lack of variety and excitement can lead to apathy with burnout not far behind.
Recently, I had a project in which I needed to produce high-fidelity screens for a tablet. I was to present these screens on the device and also produce a clickable prototype. They needed to be pixel-perfect. The timeline was tight (as always), so I went with my go-to tool, Photoshop. I’ve been using it for over 10 years, and it gives me the fastest high-quality output.
Are you designing at “Retina” resolution in Photoshop? If the answer is yes, then this article is for you. I will walk you through the problems I faced in creating Retina mockups to be displayed on a tablet device. I will then explain a way to work that is easier and gives you better performance. This is about my experience with Photoshop, but it could be applied to Illustrator and other software.
When someone lands on a page of your site what do you want that person to do? Where do you want them to look? What information do you want your visitors to notice and in what order? Ideally, you want people to see your most important information first and your next most important information second.
You want potential customers to see the copy that will convince them to buy before they see the "Buy Now" button. You want people to be presented with the right information at the right time, and one way to do that is to control the flow of your composition. Compositional flow determines how the eye is led through a design: where it looks first, where it looks next, where the eye pauses, and how long it stays.
Has a client ever asked you to make the logo bigger? Maybe they asked that just after you completed their request to make a heading bigger. The new heading stands out, but now the logo is too small in comparison and isn’t getting noticed. The clients wants to make the logo bigger.
Of course, now that the logo and heading are bigger, both are going to attract more attention than the main call-to-action button, which will need to be made bigger. And once the button is bigger, the heading is going to start looking small again.