When a line is not a line

For the designer, a line is not a line. A box is not a box. A gradient is not a gradient. An arrow is not an arrow. A sharp or rounded corner is never simply that. And only in the most mundane and pedestrian circumstances is any color used in design actually representative of the color itself. In essence, nothing is what it would seem to be.

If you actually believe that designing content means you should add a line or a box or a gradient for its own sake, you’re no longer designing—you’re cluttering. Be careful.

Once you have agreed to direct your efforts toward a specific design purpose, you make an error if you simply cast ornaments upon the content. On the contrary; you are sworn to eliminate everything contextually contrary or that gets in the way of communication. Lines and boxes and arbitrarily chosen ornaments do not romance or enhance the content or its purpose at communication. Arbitrary structure only ever gets in the way.

As the designer, your purpose is to realize order, clarity, enhancement, and contextually appropriate theme for the content so that its message may better be conveyed. Your purpose is to discover and accomplish the seamless reintegration of that which is obviously missing from the message found within or required by the raw content.

These required components may be few or manifold, but lines, arrows, gradients, boxes, specific text decorations, or corners of a particular character for their own sake are surely never among the missing elements. For every element that is not amongst the raw content and that you decide to include in the design, ask yourself: what is its purpose? What is this element representative of and how does that enhance the content, the context, or the message?…

Andy Rutledge – The Design Lesson

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