Constraining Design

This is the second in a series of nine posts on the All Things Open 2015 conference I attended in Raleigh in mid-October. For more information on the conference, along with videos and slides from the presenters, check out the conference website.

The first session I attended at All Things Open was in the UX/UI/Design track. The speaker Shay Howe from Belly described how design constraints can actually free a designer to do what they’re best at. Good constraints include a grid, font/typography choices, color choices, and any existing branding for the site, if it’s available.

“Narrowing your options can clarify challenges,” Howe said, and allow a designer to use fewer resources while maintaining consistent styling across iterations.

As someone who is working on a system to create design as good as my development, this really hit home. It is the reason I always suggest to clients that they should start with a style guide, or even a mood board, to give me constraints to work with. Taking away the basic decisions of font, color, and button styling allows me to spend my limited design resources on interesting elements that really customize a site.

Getting clients to see the importance of these style constraints is also an important part of the process. Clients want to jump right in to seeing a website in progress, and sometimes feel like developing these standards is a waste of time. Done correctly, however, it makes the development process much smoother and faster than the code first method.

“Constraints do not equal sacrifices,” said Howe.

Posted by Megan Jonas

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