Don’t Overcook

Early in my career, an art director I was working with gave me this advice: “Don’t overcook it.” That was his way of telling me that tinkering can destroy an otherwise great design.

“Great design” is simply the right combination of elements — and when you have the right mix, adding just one more thing can muck it up. How do you know when it’s time to stop stirring the pot? Here are a few tips:

  1. Take advantage of thumbnails. They’re free, so create as many as you want. It’s a time-honored practice that designers don’t utilize as much as they should. Thumbnails can help weed out bad ideas and let you see the design from a different perspective.
  1. Be aware of balancecolorwhite space and Keep your design clean and free of clutter, and don’t get sidetracked by gimmicks. I start off with the bare necessities and build from there, adding just one element at a time.
  1. It’s also important to step away, even if just for a moment. Readjust your eyes, eat something, read email, talk to someone — anything to give your mind a break. You’ll be amazed at what you notice after some time away from the work.
  1. Look at the piece as the audience will see it. If it’s for print, print it out and view it with a different light. If it’s for mobile, open the piece in a window that mimics the device and view it at a different orientation. This can reveal subtle changes that might take the design from meh to wow!
  1. Finally, trust your instincts. If a voice inside tells you that you’re going in the wrong direction, stop and listen. Then step back and recalibrate — and check those thumbnails.

Image by: © Artyom Rudenko –

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