Design Eye for the Non-Artistic Guy (and everyone else)

2 min read

Design is about more than just making things pretty. It’s about crafting something that is not only visually appealing but is also a joy to use. And design is not just for design firms; it’s gaining value in other businesses too. Even big corporations like Intuit and Capital One have adopted design as a core tenet.

The same is true at HWC. Our emphasis on Data and Design as a core capability allows us to analyze data in a way that is both interesting and accessible. From the term alone, Data and Design seems like a merger of the left brain and right brain. But these skills aren’t exclusive to those right-brained folks.

It may seem like design skills are something that you’re either gifted with or you’re not. If you don’t have an eye for design, you might think designers are speaking a completely different language and performing alchemy to turn text and images into something great.

These thoughts are common. Design skills are a kind of tacit knowledge. For example, if you try to teach someone how to ride a bicycle, you could almost certainly teach someone how a bike works or what motions to use. You could even demonstrate how to ride the bike. But you can’t teach someone how to balance and ride with confidence. That’s something they’ll only learn with practice.

But designers don’t exclusively rely on this tacit knowledge when they work. Like any other skill, you can grow and refine your design skills. Here’s an easy tip to start developing your eye for design.

Think About What You Like.

When you see something you like, start to think about why you like it. Why does it resonate with you? If you see something you don’t like, think about why you don’t like it. How could it be better? If you’ve made it this far in life as a person with eyesight, you probably have some opinions about how the world around you looks.

Let’s Practice Together.

my.billie-adTo the right is an Instagram post from Billie, a women’s razor company. The ad features compelling colors—they’re trendy (containing Pantone’s 2016 colors of the year, even!) and feminine. The picture has a subtle film grain effect, which makes it feel nostalgic or even vintage. We can also get a sense of the entire shape of the razor without ever seeing the full thing. This keeps things interesting and not quite so ad-like. I like the way this image uses space. Although there are four razors in one picture, it doesn’t feel cluttered because of the spacing.

It might seem like I’m pointing out the obvious because everything I’ve described is in the image. But the average viewer passively looks at the world around them. They see something they like without ever stopping to think about why they like it. By considering what makes things look good, you’ll start to notice what works and doesn’t work in design.

Develop Your Design Skills.

To refine your eye, keep track of design trends. It doesn’t take much effort. You can sign up for newsletters or check out websites that compile the best of today’s design. Muzli creates a weekly digest of good design, and they’ll even send it right to your email inbox. Other newsletters include UX Design Weekly and Creative Mornings.

Design skills don’t emerge overnight. Try taking five minutes out of your day to look at something and think critically about how and why its design works. For an added challenge, think about the image’s goal. How do the visuals accomplish that goal? Don’t forget, practice makes perfect. Get out there and flex your design muscles!

Christina Wagner Christina Wagner is a multimedia designer and proud dog mom. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative Enterprise with a concentration in communication design from the University of Reading and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Kinetic Imaging from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is interested in the value that a design focus brings to organizations.