Design Theory

Last updated: June 17, 2018

Online Quiz

Universal Principles of Design

80/20 Rule

A high percentage of effects in any large system are caused by a low percent of variables.

  • useful for focusing resources and realizing greater efficiencies in design
  • can be used to assess the value of elements to target areas of redesign and optimization
  • noncritical functions of that are part of the less-important 80 should be minimized or removed from the design

Accessibility

Objects and environments should be designed to be usable, without modification, by as many people as possible.

  • Perceptibility: when everyone can perceive the design, regardless of sensory abilities
  • Operability: when everyone can use the design, regardless of physical abilities
  • Simplicity: when everyone can easily understand and use the design, regardless of experience, literacy, or concentration level
  • Forgiveness: when designs minimize the occurrence and consequences of errors

Aesthetic-Visability Effect

Aesthetic designs are perceived as easier to use than less-aesthetic designs.

  • more usable but less aesthetic design may suffer a lack of acceptance that renders issues of usability moot

Affordance

A property in which the physical characteristics of an object or environment influence its function.

Alignment

The placement of elements such that edges line up along columns, or their bodies along a common center.

  • This creates a sense of unity and cohesion, and contributes to the design aesthetic and perceived stability

Anthropomorphic Form

A tendency to find forms that appear humanoid or exhibit humanlike characteristics appealing.

  • Feminine Proportions: sexuality and vitality
  • Round Forms: babylike associations
  • Angular Forms: masculine and aggressive associations

Archetypes

Universal patterns of theme and form resulting from innate biases or dispositions.

  • The probability of success increasses when the archetypes align with the design
  • Especially useful when traditional modes of communication (language) cannot be used

Area Alignment

Alignment based on the area of elements versus the edge of elements.

  • This applies to text and graphical elements
  • numbered or bulleted items should be aligned by the text and not the number or bullet

Closure

A tendency to perceive a set of individual elements as a single, recognizable pattern, rather than multiple individual elements. One of Gestalt Principles of Perception.

  • we have an innate preference for simplicity over complexity, and pattern over randomness
  • when designs involve complex patterns, consider the use of transitional elements to assist viewers in finding or forming the pattern

Common Fate

Elements that move in the same direction are perceived to be more related than elements that move in different directions or are stationary. One of Gestalt Principles of Perception.

Comparison

A method of illustrating relationships and patterns in system behaviors by representing two or more system variables in a controlled way.

Key techniques for making valid comparisons are:

  • Apples to Apples: data should be presented using common measures and common units accounting for differences in variables
  • Single Context: data should be presented in a single context, so subtle differences and patterns are detectable
  • Benchmarks: data should be accompanied by benchmark variables so that clear and substantive comparisons can be made

Confirmation

A technique for preventing unintended actions by requiring verification of the actions before they are performed (Verification Principle).

Use confirmation to minimize errors in the performance of critical or irreversible operations.

Consistency

The usability and learnability of a system is improved when similar parts are expressed in similar ways. But do not compromise clarity or usability for consistency.

  • Aesthetic: consistency of style and appearance - improves recognition, membership, emotional expectations
  • Functional: consistency of meaning and action - improves usability and learnability
  • Internal: data should be accompanied by benchmark variables so that clear and substantive comparisons can be made
  • External: consistency with other elements in the environment - benefits other consistencies

The Gestalt Principles

Similarity

Similarity occurs when objects look similar to one another. People often perceive them as a group or pattern.

Continuation

Continuation occurs when the eye is compelled to move through one object and continue to another object.

Closure

A tendency to perceive a set of individual elements as a single, recognizable pattern, rather than multiple individual elements.

Closure occurs when an object is incomplete or a space is not completely enclosed. If enough of the shape is indicated, people percieve the whole by filling in the missing infomation.

Proximity

Proximity occurs when elements are placed close together. They tend to be perceived as a group.

Figure and Ground

The eye differentiates an object form its surrounding area. a form, silhouette, or shape is naturrally perceived as figure (object), while the surrounding area is perceived as ground (background).

Balancing figure and ground can make the perceived image more clear. Using unusual figure/ground relationships can add interest and sublety to an image.

Common Fate

Elements that move in the same direction are perceived to be more related than elements that move in different directions or are stationary.

Great Design Quotes

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”

- Steve Jobs

“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

- Milton Glaser

“Digital design is like painting, except the paint never dries.”

- Neville Brody

“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.”

- John Maeda

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

- Hans Hofmann

“Good design is obvious, great design is transparent.”

- Joe Sparano