How We Think

News Flash: Design is just a bunch of C.R.A.P.

Aug 01, 2017

Prepare to have your foundational knowledge about designers completely shaken.

Are you ready? Okay. Here it goes: Designers are not, nor have they ever been magicians (or wizards... warlocks… or any other wand-wielding creature). They cannot “magically make things work.” There is no “fountain of creativity” or “faucet of flair” we secretly tap into at 2 a.m.

Designers are cold, calculating people and our work is total C.R.A.P. That’s right, you read that correctly. Our work is total C.R.A.P.

Wait, WHAT?

Let me backtrack for a moment, C.R.A.P. is not an adjective (it’s a noun, obviously). The C.R.A.P. I’m referencing is an acronym, developed by Robin Patricia Williams, as an easy way to learn and remember four basic design principles–contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. When incorporated into designs, these basic principles will improve consistency and overall effectiveness.

Tell me more! Tell me more!

I could fill volumes with discussion on the pros and cons of various design principles–why they work, why they don’t work, which I use most often, etc. Though I think we can agree that would be about as exciting as watching paint dry, so here’s the abridged version:

Contrast is the practice of making an element stand out utilizing different design styles like color, type, shape or size.

Repetition is the key to establishing consistency in design through the use familiar elements. A good example might be using the same size typeface for titles or formatting them to be bold and green.

Great design is dictated by a cohesiveness that can only be achieved through intentional placement that visually connects each element to another, also known as alignment.

Much like alignment, proximity deals with coupling elements that should logically be grouped together (think multi-lined addresses or contact information).

Every design needs some C.R.A.P.

As your design skills advance, you’ll realize that truly tremendous designs are created when you mix and match these principles at varying strengths. Whether it’s for a website, brochure, or a logo even using just one of these principles will make your design more dynamic.

Now, go make some C.R.A.P.!

Interested in knowing more? There’s a whole book about it!,


Written by Sarah Hamilton, Senior Design Specialist