Why Does Everyone Hate Design Principles?

I was immediately very excited to read this article because in the beginning there is a heavy focus on design principles such as Williams’ four principles from The Non-Designer’s Design Book. I have actually read excerpts from that book in my AP Studio Art class in high school, and the themes Williams focuses on are extremely important when designing something appealing. I became excited because based on our past readings in this class I knew that somehow Wysocky would find a way to dispute these traditional and accepted principles.

And oh boy did she argue. Or rather she agreed with some other people. The argument came in quickly that these four major principles were a product of designers looking to standardize and rationalize their actions in design. And to a certain extent I do agree with this. I don’t want to walk down the street and see twenty posters that all look the same, but I think having standards of good or bad design and letting designers use their own personal touch is what allows design to stay a progressive medium. What I heavily disagree with though is the argument that design is driven by the want or need to be efficient. Maybe in the case that you want your advertisement to efficiently sell your product, but designers are not driven to follow the four main principles of deign to be efficient in their work. The process of design is meticulous and the principles are not exactly simple to follow. If designers were driven only by efficiency then a lot of posters and advertisements would be black text on a white background saying “buy our product, it ‘s better than the competitor”.

In these two advertisements there is a stark difference in old design and modern design. It is clear that in the modern design the four principles are followed more closely than in the older advertisement. There is clear contrast between the bottles and the background with the aid of a lot of negative space being used, the bottles are repeated, they are all aligned the same, and all the elements are close together but spaced enough to feel separate and not crowded.

Wysocky also touches on something that many people don’t consider when thinking about design. Philosophy plays a large part in design because designers are able to create appealing visuals based on concepts and understanding from our everyday lives that give us sensations. We can also draw a sense of duty and reason from design based on these sensations. Then in Kant’s third critique, that of judgement, it is argued that with a sensation of pleasure, it is our judgement that can then join that sensation to the design. Kant’s critiques are a combination of natural concepts and our human decision making process. Kant argues that these two things are not separate and so when we see that “nature and law are harmonized, it is beautiful” (Wysocky, n.d.).

Do you think design will always follow the four main principles we currently follow, or will designers begin to use more and more abstract principles?


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