From branding identity packages stuffed full of inspired logos and print materials to mind-blowing web interfaces and marketing wizardry, graphic designers have their hands in almost everyone's pudding (which designers like me hope is chocolate and vanilla swirl flavor because that's where all of my magical design powers come from). No matter what type of project you're working on, practicing simplicity in your design is the best way to ensure your design is clear, concise, and effective.
Define your goal
Before you can begin to simplify your design, you have to establish what the goal of your project is. Without knowing what you should be focusing on, you won't have a clear idea of what can be altered and what must stay the same. Are you creating a marketing campaign focused on brand awareness? Are you creating a lead generation website? You must approach each project individually, as they will all have their own unique set of goals. Kind of like snowflakes - if snowflakes had deadlines.
Remove the unnecessary
The most obvious, and yet most overlooked practice to achieving better design through simplicity is removing unnecessary items. Whether this is graphics, extraneous navigational items, or bloated features, I guarantee there is always something that can be eliminated. Remember: anything that does not help your primary goal is harming it.
Refine, refine, refine
Sometimes certain elements cannot be removed, and that's okay. But before you go skipping along eating cupcakes and singing "You're The Best Around" by Joe Esposito, we still need to refine the elements of the design that you've retained. Determine if there are parts of that design that you can simplify even further. Play with alternative solutions, options, layouts, or whatever your creative mind can come up with. The more options you have to choose from, the easier you can identify the right solution.
When you eliminate any amount of guess work from your design you are allowing your audience to remain focused on what's important. Grouping similar parts of a design together that seem overly complex is a great way to eliminate complexity. This could mean combining form fields in a user interface or copy in a print design. If you're unable to group items, make sure you are at least arranging the complex items in the most logical manner possible.
When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how many months you spent refining, simplifying, or doing anything else to your design if your audience doesn't perceive your design in the way you intended. One of the biggest things you can benefit from is feedback. Take your ego out of the equation and listen to what people have to say. It may be hard, but if you design around what your audience is telling you they want, instead of what you think they want, you've already won half the battle.
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