This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Design principles - visual interest

Creating visual interest in design is not an extreme, it's a balance. It's that wonderful place in the middle between "boring" and "cluttered". Many of my design students have been terribly frustrated by what I call "visual interest". That's because it's not easy. For me, as a designer, it's nothing short of a magical place. The best example of visual interest that I have seen is the movie "Avatar". Visual interest is eye candy.

Visual interest is different from clutter. Everyone knows what clutter is. That's when you have too much going on, too many different sizes, different colors, different textures. If your design is cluttered, it's a mess. "Uncluttering" a design is virtually impossible. In music, the term is "cacophony" - a jumble of sounds, no harmony, basically just noise. In visual design, clutter is visual noise. It is not interesting, it is just annoying.

At the other end of the extreme is boring. That is a design that is so simple, there just isn't really anything to it. In music, it would be someone tapping on a few keys on the piano, like "chopsticks". Annoying in its simplicity.

As a designer, you will constantly be trying to balance the two extremes, from clutter on one end to boring on the other. The midpoint is what I call "visual interest". And, no, it can never really be achieved, all you can do is move towards it. When you get close to it is when the magic happens. Designers struggle with this all the time. For designers, it is the "lost chord" - the perfect balance of sizes, colors, and textures, the perfect harmony of light and dark. No, it's not done with a formula. You don't learn it out of a book, or by talking about it. You learn it by doing. You learn it by "sharpening up your eye". When you start on this road, keep in mind that it never ends. No two designers will ever totally agree. But they can come close to it.

Here is where I suggest you start - start with "boring". Start with simple, start with functional. Begin to add to that. Your design will have the advantage of actually working right away. As you develop more skill in visual interest, add more. Keep adding until you've gone to far, then start taking away. Keep doing this, forever.

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