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Design? Keep it simple, stupid!

Design ABCLots of people think good design is all about making things look pretty. Well, we’ve got news for you. It isn’t.

Oh, all right. It is. Sort of. Aesthetics is a big part of any design project, and we couldn’t hold our heads up as a creative agency if we weren’t striving constantly to present our clients with work that looks just plain gorgeous.

But it’s not just about being gorgeous. Good design is fundamentally about clear communication. It’s about deciding exactly what it is you want to say (and yes, that really does mean getting rid of all the peripheral junk and boiling everything down to a single key message) then devising a memorable way to say it. This rule applies whatever you’re designing: a consumer ad, a merchandising unit, a company logo, an exhibition stand … it’s like the man said: Keep it simple, stupid!

If less is more, does that mean all design has to be minimalistic? Not at all. Visual flourishes are great, just as long as they serve the underlying message (we all like our twiddly bits, right?). And there’s always room for a secondary message, just as long as the primary communication gets to stand in the spotlight.

Good design also takes into account the practicalities. Or, if you prefer, inconveniences. You know, all those irritating things like deadlines, budgets, corporate guidelines … the list goes on. Actually, we like to think of these not as restrictions but challenges. Deadlines focus the mind. Budgets mark out the playing field. Guidelines restrict the design palette in ways that can actually enhance creativity. Give an artist a blank canvas, a million tubes of paint and all the time in the world and a year later he’ll still be dithering. Set him in front of a still life with one stick of charcoal and a ticking clock and watch him create a masterpiece.

Good design is more than just showing a pretty face. It’s about being smart. And, in order to be smart, you need to be single-minded.

It’s stupid not to be simple, don’t you think?