Working Within Limitations

A few minimalist strategies for improving both: your design work and your bottom line. This is an issue for many students that professor often encountered with questions. These tips are found on Tut+ and are written in a manner that is easy to follow.

Choosing a Limited Color Palette

There are some simple techniques you can use to improve your use of color. These techniques don’t require a comprehensive understanding of color theory. Collis gives us a simple formula for limiting color selections in order to create a quick, professional Web site design. GoMediaZine has some additional advice in their Become a Master Designer series. In each case limiting color selection proves to unify the design.

The article also briefly touches on color theory topics such as value, hue, and temperature range.

Limit The Number of Fonts in Your Design

The more you use any element, the greater the difficulty in maintaining cohesion in your design. Fonts will clash quickly. Limiting your font selection will improve the professionalism of your designs.

Limit Your Use of Illustrative Elements or Effects

Illustrative elements can quickly overpower a design. Designers need to bring illustrations into their designs without those illustrations overpowering surrounding elements. The more illustrations used, the more difficult it is to maintain this balance. I’m sure we can all relate to overdoing it with effects. Using too many Photoshop filters can quickly push a design from being elegant to appearing amateurish.

Embrace the Limitations of the Medium You’re Working With

Every medium has inherent limitations. Whether it’s on screen, a piece of paper, or a billboard, every design has physical boundaries we need to work within. Print will have different limitations than working on screen. For example, you need to be careful around the edge of some printed pieces. It’s best not to place important information close to the edge. A misaligned cut could remove a precious piece of information. A safe area is designated when created pieces like business cards, newspapers, or magazines.

Online, we have to account for limitations such as font availability and lower resolution. Bandwidth limitations are still applicable and were especially limiting in the past. You still have to consider page load in your design decisions for the Web, but in the past this was more hindering. These are just some limitations. In each circumstance the best decision is to find solutions that work within these limitations. There were many sites that lost users as the site took to long to load. Flash sites took quite some time to adapt to this user tendency as well.

Rather than fight these limitations it’s best to embrace them. Consider them as part of the design problem you’re working to solve. You wouldn’t approach a project for designing for mobile devices the same as other Web projects, as the screen sizes vary greatly. Each problems will have its own set of limitations. Work within them.

Limit Your Risk

Many techniques we’ve discussed in this article help to limit risk. It’s easier to achieve successful designs that are built on a minimalist philosophy, than to achieve great designs that attempt to fuse disparate elements. It’s quicker to choose a limited color palette than to work with multiple colors that may potentially clash. It’s easier to work with just a few fonts, than to try to use a dozen. You’re more likely to have a professional design if you use well-chosen and carefully placed effects or illustrative design elements. Certainly, adapting to the confines of your chosen medium is much easier than trying to create solutions that expand the medium’s abilities.

Working within limitations achieves professional results quickly. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never create complicated designs or that you shouldn’t include visual exploration within the design process. There are some projects that require more time spent creating a unique and complex design. And sure, It’s fun to make these types of designs, though it’s difficult to find clients who accept this exploration phase of a project. Often, designers dream of finding these kinds of clients. When you do, savor and enjoy the project.

While it’s fun to create complex and playful designs, it’s likely that you will be required to create minimalist professional designs in any design career you choose. As a freelancer, you may find yourself gravitate toward this kind of work because you can improve your bottom line quickly. The busier you get as a designer, the more risk you take on when bidding on projects. If you quickly create professional solutions, you’re making more money. These are some of the financial incentives found in taking minimalist approaches in your design work.

Adapting to a Less-is-More Design Philosophy

You may have already embraced a less-is-more design philosophy, or you may struggle to apply the techniques discussed in this article. Consider that the more elements you add, the more difficult it becomes to achieve a balanced, harmonious, and effective design.

Linh Dao


About utagtateaching

This blog is dedicated to providing resources to the Graduate Teaching Assistants in the UTA MFA program pertaining to teaching strategies, methods, and materials. We aim to start a public discussion that serves to enhance the classroom experience for both teacher and student.

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