The stock answer is that good design is generally a combination of different qualities — what it does, what it looks like, and so on. But as our expectations of design change, so do those qualities and the relationship between them.
Designs should be complete but not cluttered. Good design should be able to tell a story at a glance without the reader getting lost in the overall look. Some designers like less detail, others like more.
But what really works on a broader scale?
Look at different images of products around you. Most are simple, well thought out designs. They tell a story at a glance or give a feeling with just a look. Simplicity is a great goal to use when trying to create a design. Corporate elements and product icons carry a lot of weight to get their point across easily. For example, everyone knows the Facebook icon, even though it is simple in both detail and its colors.
Some designs can be more complex. A design will be more detailed and complex when designing for a large audience where you need to show many possibilities for a particular product or image. Those designs are usually full of color and ideas but not so much that it overwhelms the viewer.
When designing an icon, use less color and less distraction. Remember the acronym KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. If you’re designing a poster for an event that has many uses, complementary colors and interesting design elements are the best options to get your ideas across.
In this new digital age of design, everyone has the ability to be a designer if they have a laptop and some software. And while opinions differ on what is good and bad design, remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Good design is what looks good today and will still look good in 20 years.
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