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

Design fundamentals - working within limitations

When I started teaching Graphic Design back in the nineties, I was surprised at how many of my students argued with me about the limitations. If the project was limited to two colors, they wanted three. If the size was 8 X 10, they wanted to know if it could be just a little bit larger. And so on. Of course, in a school assignment, the limitation is just an imaginary one, created by the teacher. But in the real world, limitations are for real, and if you can't design within limitations, you are out of business.

But never in my wildest dreams would I have created an assignment of taking a design that was created to be viewed on a full-sized computer screen, and ask my students to adapt it to a screen that is only a couple of inches wide. And yet that is what webmasters are doing right now, in creating a separate design to display on a mobile device.

And like all design within limitations, doing it right takes a lot of skill. And no, you can't go up to everybody in the world who would like to view your web page and tell them that they aren't supposed to look at it on their mobile device. That's as bad as the old days when some webmasters said *best viewed at*... or on a particular browser.

Old-time Graphic Designers are familiar with designing ads to fit different sizes. Back in the day, I would design an ad that would go from a full-page newspaper page to just a couple of inches wide. So this is nothing new to Graphic Designers. If it's new to you, just look at it as a design problem, not a technical problem. Designing for mobile devices is like designing a billboard. The information has to be crystal clear at a glance. If there is a lot of tiny type and lots of blurry pictures, it's a mess and people will look away.

Another comparison to make is the old overhead and slide shows. I had a Dean at one school who insisted on trying to get complex graphs and a lot of text on them as he did his presentation. From the back of the room they might just were just mush. If your website looks like that on a mobile device, don't be surprised if people click away.

Good, simple Graphic Design is very, very, difficult, like writing Haiku poetry. That's why the best logos are so simple. And designing for simplicity is like organizing your thoughts before you speak. Hard to do.

But worth it.