See also: graphics and multimedia
Balancing visual and structural complexity in interaction design
Usability is based on principles such as "Less is more" and "Keep it simple, stupid". But there is more to simplicity than meets the eye. By reducing visual complexity at the cost of structural simplicity, you will give your users a hard time understanding and navigating the content of a website.
Better graphic design
Graphic designers are asked to perform the difficult task of being creative every single day. Often, our main priority is to feed our client's fascination for originality. We experiment with colours, composition, typography, and photography in order to deliver an original visual solution. This sort of free-ranging experimentation is often the expectation of graphic designers. However, this approach is becoming less and less effective.
Graphic design plays a minor role on the web
"The best websites are highly functional. They are task-focused. Graphic design has an important, though limited role. Don't try and force the Web to be what it's not."
(Gerry McGovern - New Thinking)
Graphic design vs usability
The GUI Olympics is an annual event where top graphic designers converge to design the latest and greatest "skins" for the Winamp media player, Windows themes and icons. The event is in its final week, and while it's wrapping up it might be useful to reflect on a couple of note-worthy items that relate to popular misconceptions of usability and graphic design...
Learning to love the pixel: exploring the craft of icon design
Designing web-based enterprise software involves creating complex artifacts like architecture wireframes, object models, screen flows, and clickable prototypes in order to articulate aspects of the online experience for product stakeholders. But what does "craft" mean for interaction designers?
Snap decisions on the web
"In all of our research studying user behavior, we see that visual aesthetics play a role in users’ judgments--but they take a backseat to the site’s content."
(Christine Perfetti - UIE Brainsparks)
The document triangle: the interdependence of the structure, information and presentation dimensions
Every paper and digital document shares three basic dimensions: structure, information and presentation. Although these dimensions are always interwoven, some people in the digital world mostly focus on document structures (e.g. information architects), some on the information they contain (e.g. marketers and writers/editors) while others specialise in the (interactive) presentation aspects (e.g. visual designers and Flash developers). The mutual dependence and interaction of these dimensions is the next level of design and does not regularly get the proper attention. In order to better understand the relationship between these dimensions, we need to look at each of them seperately, and how they inter-relate.
The layers of design: the style layer
"Breaking the design process up into layers is a useful mechanism for ensuring that the effort is comprehensive and contextual. By starting with the most fundamental factors in the design and designing them to be contextually appropriate, you can build successive layers of the design on the right sort of foundation. The application of style to the design might be subtle or heavy-handed, according to the context, but no amount of stylistic application can be said to be too little or too much in and of itself. Context matters in every aspect of design and this is certainly true of stylistic concerns."
(Andy Rutledge - UX Magazine)
The principles of design
"We can group all of the basic tenets of design into two categories: principles and elements. For this article, the principles of design are the overarching truths of the profession. They represent the basic assumptions of the world that guide the design practice, and affect the arrangement of objects within a composition."
(Joshua David McClurg-Genevese)
The sphere of design
The web design community thankfully seems to be wrapping up the "design vs. usability" argument. Design leaders have proved that web sites can be both usable and beautiful, but we lack a vocabulary to talk about this new standard. This article introduces the "Sphere of Design", which is a simple conceptual model that illustrates the relationship and trade-offs between 'looks' and 'works'.
Visual communication and web application design
"Visual communication is a key component of interface design and unfortunately often under-represented in interaction design methodologies. This talk introduces the core principles of Visual communication (with an emphasis on Visual organization) and through many practical examples details how they can be put to use during the Web application interface design process "
What does your audience want?
Successful visual designers well know the audiences they are designing for, and realise that their audiences exist at multiple levels.
Where visual literacy and interface design meet
"A large number of conventions are currently used by software developers and each one believes that his or her design is the right one. Many software developers like to believe that what they do is an "art" and therefore it is not surprising that conventions used at present are more the result of "art" than of science. Without denying a software developer his or her creativity, there is a great need for a formal method to ensure the communicative validity of such conventions as functional layout, icons and colour. UCD and user experience specialists have always aimed to achieve this by using familiar symbols and signs from the user's environment, but more attention to formal principles of visual communication should make the results more predictable, or at least take some of the guesswork out of user interface design and ensure better utilisation of resources."
Writing skills and better visual design
Strong visual design is about balance. It requires an appropriate relationship between written content, information hierarchy and the use of visual elements such as graphics and photography.