On Design Series: Contrast
I’ve seen a couple sources now that helpfully encourage you to make your stuff look like CRAP, and I’m going to perpetuate this as well. C.R.A.P stands for Contrast. Repetition. Alignment. Proximity. This is not a magic pill to make lousy design brilliant, it’s a reminder as you create and place your elements. I’ll introduce all four over the next few days. Remember, I’m only introducing you to the concept, for a more complete primer on design I recommend Robin Williams’ (not that Robin Williams, the other Robin Williams) book The Non-Designers Design Book (link HERE – don’t let the really ugly cover throw you off it)
CONTRAST is not only the difference between white and black. It can be contrast of colours, shades, weights, styles, etc. The examples below are a mix of contrasts between shades, weights, colours,styles, and sizes.
Where contrast helps is in drawing attention to different elements, adding distinction between them while keeping them a unified whole. So in one sense the contrast has to be complimentary, while not being similar. Remember, you’re still trying to communicate something – so two elements that contrast and conflict at the same time is a bad idea.Here’s a ludicrous example of that:
Likewise, you don’t want contrast to be too subtle. Here’s a two sans serif fonts – different fonts from different font foundries, but too similar for the contrast to be anything but confusing to the eye. It accomplishes nothing but distraction as the viewer tries to decide if they are different or the designer forgot to changed one and not the other, or if the viewer is just finally losing their mind.
A stronger choice would be a contrast between a serif and sans serif, or keep the font the same and use a contrast of weight or shade.
The above examples are type-related but the principles can be extended to all your elements. Intentionally introducing contrast makes for stronger designs, but keep in mind what you’re trying to communicate, and make your contrasts consistent, not conflicting or confusing.