Monday, October 26, 2009

Why do you think the CRAP Principles are important in design?

The Crap Principles of Contrast, Alignment, Proximity, and Repetition are important to design because it can enhance or expose a poorly designed image. They may seem to be unimportant and trivial, but Williams gives names to four techniques that are most commonly used and seen on websites, magazines, comics and almost any type of visual image. Most people use all 4 without knowledge that their is a named design principle but rather for effect.

Proximity on websites is grouping related items together (which is also what people do intuitively and look for) is always important as it helps direct the guide the reader. For example if a website centered about flowers had a link around say maybe characters in a game or book that would be immediately obvious that it doesn't belong. The text example of an ad for dancing styles also shows the importance of clear communication of ideas (we might laugh at this and say its obvious) but we can always identify a poor website from a professional one with ease. Looking at say the Menu differences in the text for the Piano Bar, my mind immediately identified the extra space of the second image to be more appealing in terms of understandability, alignment, and logical organizational relationship and also one I would I like to perhaps receive if I had indeed gone there.

Alignment seems pretty self-explanatory but it often a violated rule in website design to varying degrees mostly because it is hard to spot unless done intentionally (Williams mentions this in changes in text alignment which are a no-no if not done intentionally and not desired done more than once.) Williams also reminds us that designers can't simply place text and graphics any where with no care of the arrangement and see if they stick. In the numerous examples she gives she encourages new designers to see alignment as order which our eyes are programmed to see. She also wants the reader to balance being bold (messing with font alignment of not centering every document) with being readable. She mentions that a well designed document should be able to draw lines between the objects.

Repetition is often used by designers to may a point, however if used too much or incorrectly it defeats the purpose of highlighting important information for the audience. Repetition also has the purpose of adding visual interest to grab a reader such as the two examples of the Mermaid Tavern. The second improved business card immediately grabs the reader with bold print and ties the piece together as Williams notes. For lack of a better comparison repetition is like makeup. It accentuates your face but adding too much spoils the contrast and the focus of accentuating one's facial features. This is very important in both print and visuals and is the easiest to identify if done poorly.

Contrast is often used by designers to draw readers into an image or website page. Color is perhaps the most frequent and effective method that I have seen and used although differences in font size are also used (although I have seen them used more in flyers and ads than websites). The type face contrasts have a great use in website headers and I have been more inclined to visit a site with an exciting banner rather than just the usual header (with a photoshopped picture and text). For the text example of the rules of life, while they were all clear, clean and neat the last picture immediately grabbed my attention because of the white on black text. The only danger in using contrast is misusing it will backfire as the audience will not be drawn into your website/magazine/photo etc but rather out. I have seen this happen with poor contrasted colors or repetition of contrast colors but most times common sense will take care of contrast issues as it connects you with the audience. (In website terms it's like your face to the audience and sometimes tells more about a designer than a personal website based on their choices of contrast.)

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