Investigating Design Skills

..but I’m not the designer type ?


So I’m fairly well read up on the coding and technology side of web development and mobile. Arguably a more useful skill, so it would seem is to be able to solve  business  and organisations marketing goals by designing Web Sites and apps that people love to use. Or perhaps sites or apps that I can produce to show off my skills.

It seems that employers expect to see sample work in a portfolio these days as well (as the  all important Github account to show off your pristine code to the world) . A portfolio ? Me ? No I’m an engineer, a  born and bread logical thinker. So any way the voyage of discovery never ends and I’m at least starting to see that good web design is not perhaps such an esoteric skill .

As you might expect a search for ‘Graphic design’  brings up plenty of useful resources. I’ve been looking at a Udacity course called ‘Introduction to the design of Everyday things” ( I don’t really recommend it by the way, the lessons are all < 120 seconds long which is really frustrating) I’m reading the book by the same name, on which the course is based.

I particularly like the discussion relating to ‘knowledge in the head ‘ vs. ‘knowledge in the world’. It’s a very interesting observation that most of the time our decisions are constrained by the fact that there are limited options for actions we can take in the real world. I have just noticed an example of this whilst out for my walk. A lady was walking along the path and was obviously lost, looking for the railway bridge. She had no memory in her head where the bridge was. I’m guessing that ‘information in the world’ would seem to predict the presence of such a path that lead over a bridge. Good design should not require users to know in advance how to do something. As ‘knowledge in the world’ is increasingly transferred to screen based smart devices clever ways will be needed to keep it accessible at the time it is needed.

I’ve also studied various other books such as the seminal ‘Meggs History of Graphic Design’ as well as some which are more directly related to Web design.  Web design seems to have a lot or conventions built in to it that constrain design. Sites must primarily  be useable really, why re-invent the wheel when everybody already knows how to use a drop down menu or ‘burger’ icon. This I guess is the reason why CSS frameworks such as Bootstrap are so popular. That’s not to say there is no room to make sites visually appealing…

My favourite course on the subject that I’ve found so far is ‘Design Aesthetics for Web Design with Sue Jenkins’ on This is worth watching a few times since there is  a lot of detail. It covers the elements and principles that designers are taught.

The elements of graphic design,

  • type
  • line
  • point
  • form
  • colour mood
  • colour value
  • space
  • texture and depth
  • repetition of shapes

The principles are rules that should be considered:

  • contrast
  • emphasis
  • balance
  • unity
  • pattern
  • movement
  • rhythm and repetition
  • proportion
  • simplicity
  • gradation

So the real skill is applying principles and elements of design in a way that visually complement the content. Good layout shows that care and attention and thought has been used in constructing the page. The information has been pre-digested and presented as a coherent message. Colours can be selected that relate to the particular industry or organisation. Typography styles speaks volumes about what sort of site it is. It’s about appealing to multiple sensory modalities, creating a good first impression etc







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *