Before you can master design, you must first master the fundamentals

Before you can master design, you must first master the fundamentals

Last week, one of my readers sent in a question:&nbsp;<strong>How do I become a better visual designer?</strong>

Last week, one of my readers sent in a question: How do I become a better visual designer?


As I was thinking about how to answer this question, my mind wandered to my experience with learning Mandarin Chinese. Recently, I decided to teach myself Mandarin. When it comes to learning a new language, you first have to start with the fundamentals. Nouns, pronouns, and verbs form the basis for conveying more complex ideas.

Language is a way that people communicate concepts to one another. Visual design is a visual language. And learning visual design is no different from learning a new language.

Good visual designs aren’t born. They are made. The key to becoming a better visual designer is rigor. You will only improve as a visual designer if you make a conscious effort.

Here are some fundamentals you should master so you can take your visual design to the next level.

Fundamental #1: Go back to the basics with type

You can tell a lot about a designer by looking at their typography. This is because type is a fundamental basis for design.



You can create entire designs with just type. You can also base designs on type, taking subtle queues from the fonts that you choose. In order to improve the typography in your designs, first start by learning the basics.

Develop a vocabulary for describing type. Learn about what terms like tracking, kerning, and leading mean. The article A Beautifully Illustrated Glossary Of Typographic Terms You Should Know is a great visual resource for learning those terms.

Then, if you want a comprehensive understanding of how to apply typography to the web, read Web Typography: The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.

Finally, learn how to pair fonts together. A great resource for this is FontWolfand FontPair. Being able to pair fonts together will dramatically change the dynamics of your design.

For a more in depth exploration of typography, you can read my article: Typography can make your design… Or break it.

Fundamental #2: Use space to create balance

Spacing helps establish vertical and horizontal motion in your designs. It’s pivotal for creating visual hierarchy and forming association between elements.

You can always look at sites like Behance and Dribbble for inspiration on how to space elements. But it’s important to develop your own intuition for using space to create balance and visual harmony.

When studying typography, you may have noticed the importance of spacing in type. Adjusting the kerning and leading for fonts is a great exercise for developing your eye for spacing. For this reason, I recommend you try KernType, a game where you compare your kerning solution to a typographer’s solution.

Another exercise that will help develop your eye is the following: Take an existing design, draw an x and y axis, simplify the design into basic shapes, analyze how the design is balanced, and then rearrange the elements. Pay close attention to how negative space affects the balance of the elements.

Fundamental #3: Use size to establish visual hierarchy

When it comes to creating visual hierarchy, sizing is second to none. By using size to convey visual relationships between elements, you can establish flow.

Sizing is one of the reasons why grids are useful. You can use grids to help you size elements using ratios to convey importance.

Once you have determined a size for an element, keep it the same across all instances of it. In design, consistency is king.

Here’s an exercise that will help develop your eye for sizing.

The key is asking for feedback.


Sketch or wireframe a landing page. Then ask a friend to look at your design. Get them to circle the elements that stand out the most. Afterwards, have them number the circled elements based on visual weight. Are the results what you expected?

When doing this exercise, keep the following questions in mind:

  • What is the conversion goal of the landing page? How can you optimize to meet your goal?
  • What is the relationship between different elements? What elements do you want to emphasize?
  • Does your layout successfully guide a user’s eye through the page?

Fundamental #4: Use color to convey meaning

Color plays many roles. It conveys meaning, creates emotional resonance, and brings unity to designs.

For a deep dive into color, you can read my article Designing in Color. Here are a few key points from the article.

  • Identify the purpose of your design before choosing a color palette. Good design align its color palette with its purpose.
  • Identify your audience. People perceive colors differently. Colors have different effects on people based on their personal preference, cultural upbringing, and experiences.
  • When choosing a color palette, simplicity is key. Choose a neutral background color. Then choose a primary and secondary accent color. Finally based on your other colors, choose an error and success color for your different UI states.

Once you have a good grasp on the basics of color theory, color comes down to experimentation and iteration. Actively try break out of your comfort zone and try new color palettes.


Here’s an exercise that will help develop your eye for color.

Spend time compiling color palettes for things around you like photographs, magazines, and your favorite shows. Then take an existing design and apply new color palettes to it.


Take note of how it changes the mood and tone of the design. Does it change the meaning as well?

Treat your work as a craft, in that there is always something that you can improve. Rely on yourself to be the motivation to become a better designer.

What are you strategies for improving as a designer? Leave me a note or send me a tweet on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy CSS in Javascript with Aphrodite, a library by Khan Academy.

CSS in Javascript: The future of component based styling


This week, I want to introduce you to the concept of CSS in Javascript with Aphrodite by Khan Academy. Aphrodite lets…

medium.com


By : Jonathan Z. White










user-experience

Bootstrap 5 Complete Course with Examples

Bootstrap 5 Tutorial - Bootstrap 5 Crash Course for Beginners

Nest.JS Tutorial for Beginners

Hello Vue 3: A First Look at Vue 3 and the Composition API

Building a simple Applications with Vue 3

Deno Crash Course: Explore Deno and Create a full REST API with Deno

How to Build a Real-time Chat App with Deno and WebSockets

Convert HTML to Markdown Online

HTML entity encoder decoder Online

Bypassing Server-Side Rendering Altogether For a Better Web User Experience

Bypassing Server-Side Rendering Altogether For a Better Web User ... After several experiences and some changes to our workflow, we found ...

Announcing Real User Monitoring for mobile: Improve user experiences on any platform

During our [open beta of Real User Monitoring (RUM) for mobile](https://raygun.com/blog/real-user-monitoring-for-mobile/), we’ve received great feedback and suggestions that allowed us to refine and enhance Real User Monitoring for mobile. The...

Amazon's Bad User Experience

Over Christmas I ordered most of our gifts from Amazon. I have Amazon Prime and it is a wonderful user experience because I rarely need to worry about shipping

A Guide to Measuring the User Experience

As designers, we want the products we build to be satisfying and easy to use, but how can we know that’s the case? We start by measuring the user experience with evidence rather than opinions. #product #design #ux #testing #web #data #business

Enhance Your User Experience With the Modern Browser JavaScript APIs

4 Powerful APIs to give your user a better experience while navigating your website. Nowadays the web has become more important and more powerful than ever. One of the important aspects we try to achieve when building a website is providing a good user experience. Enhance your user experience with the modern browser JavaScript APIs. 4 Powerful APIs to give your user a better experience while navigating.