Whose Principles?

Originally written for ThePot-Luck.com on 5/1/13

There are no truly universal principles of design. The basis for what makes good design does not rest solely on the shoulders of Dieter Rams (nor on those of  J. Paul Getty, or anyone else).

I would like to propose that every single client deserves their own set of principles.

As designers, we are charged with the task of problem solving. We’re aesthetic engineers. It is sometimes a delicate job to design branding, collateral, and web that not only reflect our clients but also do the very specific job they are designed to do. That is, the job of reaching the target audience and directing them appropriately.

Designing a website for a law firm, for instance, would be a decidedly different process than designing for a comic book publisher. Each of these obviously has very distinct clientele, and using one design standard for both does not necessarily address the gamut of needs that follow from those two audience groups. Accordingly, we must have a bevy of tools and skills at the ready to address each new client need discreetly. Sometimes, we have to set aside our standards and MacGyver brand new solutions (although, hopefully we’ll have more to work with than a paper clip and rubber band).

My point (and I do have one, I swear) is that design principles are useful guidelines, but that no reigning Principles of Design, boldfaced and capitalized, can hold court over every designer on every occasion. As designers, we must be wary of enclosing ourselves within too small a box, and instead must be agile enough to shift our beloved principles to meet the needs of our even more beloved clients.