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3 Crucial Design Principles to Factor Into Every Design

by Whitney Ricketts
art & design, featured

In his class Create a Knockout Design Portfolio, award-winning designer and art director Ram Castillo unveiled crucial design principles that should be factored into every design you make. Here, in Ram’s words, are the first three:

1. Relevance

Do not be led by aesthetics.

I’ll say it again. Do not be led by aesthetics. Be led by relevance. I cannot emphasize this point enough. This requires you to do adequate research before beginning any design brief. The more you know about your communication objectives, the target audience demographic, the culture of the brand, the perceptions of the market and the environment the design will be seen in, the clearer your mind will be when making design decisions.

Once you start uncovering this information, you can get to the solution quicker because you’re informed by the psychology of the people you are speaking to.
In your attempts to create disruption, always ask yourself, “Does it create relevant conversations between brand and consumer?” Oftentimes relevance is what creates the disruption you’re looking for.

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr.

2. A grid system

Whether you stay in the grid or break out of it, you must have one. Why? Because you need to organise the information in a hierarchy that is easily digestible, alluring and pleasant to look at. Do not start a project without one. Four columns, six columns, twelve columns – see what works best for the brief or task.

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr.

3. Typography

Typography can make or break any communication piece. It’s a craft in itself. Kerning and leading text should become second nature and used appropriately. Your objective should be on legibility first and foremost. So if the heading or copy needs more space then give it some, if it needs to be tighter then make it tighter. Font weights and size should be used in consideration with information hierarchy.

For example, using a bolder weight for sub-headings and a lighter weight for copy is common as it helps the reader scan the content of the page easily. Line breaks must flow both with the reader’s eye and with the content. A line break shouldn’t be disruptive.

Typography overall need not be flat. You’re only restricted by your imagination.
For instance, if you’re designing a poster with the word ‘SUMMER’, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t explore the letters with beach-themed objects. If it hits the tone of the brief then great, if it doesn’t, it’ll reaffirm that the other design direction you’ve done is the better solution.


Use color in a way that brings your designs to life. Develop your understanding of color, composition, meaning, mood, and expression with Mary Jane Begin in Exploring Color and Composition.

Exploring Color and Composition

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Whitney Ricketts

Whitney Ricketts is CreativeLive’s Senior Communications Manager. Email her at whitney [dot] ricketts [at] creativelive [dot] com.