How to Avoid the Temptation to Over-Design - Burlington Press
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How to Avoid the Temptation to Over-Design

How to Avoid the Temptation to Over-Design

Have you ever been pulled into the vortex of Twitter?

Individual tweets are forceful because Twitter’s character limits require succinct messaging. And, as any practiced writer knows, it’s not easy to distill a message to its essential core.

Just like writing, concise designs create a profound impact. And while everyone loves some bells and whistles, there is such a thing as over-designing. This usually occurs when you set out without a distinct direction or a focused design solution. While it is easy (and even fun) to overdo things, ultimately this confuses the viewer and produces a muddled result.

Want to keep your concepts as sharp as possible? These tips will help.


4 Tips for Creating More with Less


1. Know What Your Design is Trying to Achieve

Over-designing is often a way to compensate for a lack of concept.

If you feel like you have to keep adding more to a design, you should stop and ask why. No amount of randomly applied bevels, embosses, patterns, or lens flares will get you closer to solving the problem.


2. Design with Constraint

Just because a design seems simple doesn’t mean it was easy to achieve.

Efficient designs use fewer visuals and create room for viewers to bring their own understanding or interpretations to the work. By limiting the number of components in your design, you leave space for active viewers to engage deeply and experience authentic emotions.


3. Simplify Complexities

What do you picture when you think of a bird?

Maybe flying, nests, or freedom? If you are trying to simplify your designs, brainstorm symbols that best convey your idea’s meaning. Instead of showing a bird in its entirety, you could sketch a feather, nest, or wingspan. Each viewpoint communicates a different sentiment, so choose symbols carefully and layer the background or colors to add emotional depth. Try footprints instead of a sneaker, smoke instead of a fire, or a steaming teacup instead of a cafe.


4. Don’t Be Afraid to Start Over

One of the hardest things to do with your design is to admit it’s not working.

It takes bravery to disconnect from your work and be honest about its effectiveness. Though it’s hard to give up on a concept, remember that by starting over, you’re not returning to square one. By scrapping a prototype, you’re just looking at your work from a different perspective. The work you’ve already done is still part of your journey to the final solution. Your time was not wasted – it was just part of the process!

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