Feb 23, 2011

Design Basics Part 6: More Tips & Conclusion

This is the last part of the six-part series called 'Design Basics' where we are learning how to make our slides look good. This series is based on the book 'The Non-Designer's Design Book' by Robin Williams.

In the last four parts we have covered the four principles of good design; Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity (in short C.R.A.P.). In this post, we will learn a few simple tricks.

1. Have a lot of white space on the slide
2. Avoid all capital letters in the text. It makes the design very busy and uncomfortable to read. The same rule applies to emails as well.
3. Break all the rules.

White Space
The invisible element of any design is the amount of blank space that is there in it. It is our tendency to fill the slide completely with either text or image. Example, open a newspaper and look for an advertisement by a small company. You will see no blank space at all. Afterall, the owner has paid for it and hence has to write as much as he can.

The problem is, the less the white space (blank space) the more the clutter. The more the white space the more catchy the design becomes. Don't think so? Have a look at these examples.

This ad is by Apollo Munich Insurance and it is extremely catchy. The moment there is so much white space, the eyes get drawn, like a magnet, into the image in the middle. Now look at the ad below:
This ad is so full of text and hence so poor in catching our attention. The only good part is the box above which is catchy because of its contrast (read more about contrast here).
This ad, in trying to be creative, commits the mistake of being too busy. We should avoid having slides like that as well.

To conclude, remember that a good design happens because of six things:

1. Contrast
2. Repetition
3. Alignment
4. Proximity
5. White Space, and
6. The guts to break all the rules!

Do not get bogged down by the rules and kill your creativity. Know which rule you are breaking and for the betterment of the design, break it!

About the six-part series
I was very impressed with this book and hence I wrote this 6 part long series. The objective of these posts was to dispel the myth that only professional designers can design good stuff. If we learn these basic principles, we can also become good designers. Good enough to not commit basic design mistakes and make your presentations much more appealing and aesthetically good looking.


  1. Nice! Really cool stuff and very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think a lot more people still believe in the myth that good designs can only be created by the professionals and for the common person, it is a daunting and next to the impossible task, the tips given here are pretty good indeed. The freedom to play around really helps in sparking creativity


  3. @Ralph

    Most people are scared of designing because they do not make an attempt at it. They feel they are not painters or creative geeks who can crack it.

    Truth is, good design is less art more about philosophy.

  4. Nice! Really cool stuff and very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!