What is good design? What I learned from css reboot.

Most people by now have browsed through the Reboot Galleries (CSS Reboot and Standards Reboot) to see what designs people are doing this year compared to last year.

No good designs?

What struck me, is I continue to see this trend where no design is considered “great” when it comes to mass numbers of people. The highest rating I saw (out of 5) was a 3.5 – and very few broke a rating of 3 at all. Granted, those who vote on these galleries, and other CSS galleries are designers themselves. This crowd could potentially have a great number of reasons to vote low on designs simply for the sake of voting low.

  • They are jealous that others are showcased when they are not (more the css galleries)
  • They are upset that they have been given low reviews
  • They think that their designs are better
  • It’s easy to slander on the internet
  • Design is subjective

Really I think the later, that design is subjective, is the biggest problem. The fact that the average of Standards Reboot reviews is dead straight in the middle (and by a landslide) should be evidence of this.

So what does this mean for us?

As designers/coders this is extremely important because most people don’t know that design is subjective. Ask anyone you know if they can pick out what designs look best, and 100% of them will say yes. People simply think they know what looks good. In reality, they only know what looks good to them. Going into any situation where we are designing we must keep that in mind – you are not going to create a design that everyone likes. The best bet is to learn as much as you can about your target audience and create a design that COMMUNICATES instead of focusing on how it is DECORATED. ( Thanks for the tag line Cameron Moll)

Any design that I do is started with a list of the things I want the design to SAY, instead of how I want it to LOOK

Is design really subjective?

Sure there are rules, people with no design sense can read books about typography, using grids, balance, color theory, contrast, etc… They can mimic designs that they see and probably make some aesthetically pleasing work. However a great designer will realize and know how breaking those rules can create wonderful design. So if the rules are more of guidelines then yes, design is – in fact – subjective.