The Balance of Design

by Dustin Lippert

Have you ever called someone an overachiever in an attempt to insult them and help yourself feel better? Here at Barker and Christol, we steal that joy by accepting the compliment!

So let’s talk. Balancing the simple and the complex is a task that never escapes a good designer. If you ever let the scale tip too far to either the left or right you’ll end up visually under-delivering or over-powering. There’s a lot to balance when you design and it doesn’t end at what elements you use to communicate the visual. It includes the context, the environment, and the audience you’re designing for.

With the world growing more complex and technology only adding to the cables, cords, and other ways to communicate, it takes simplicity to offer relief. But truth be told, we don’t want less. We don’t want shallow simplicity. Desiring less complexity should not be an attempt to be mindless. We should want simplicity that offers depth − simplicity that offers your eyes value for any moment of time. Matthew Wiener, through his character, Don Draper, coined the phrase “Significant Simplicity.” Minimalism, or the pursuit of simplicity in design, should never be done in an attempt merely to look clean. It should be done in an attempt to be clear. Each choice through the sifting process should be made in a way to make the simplest decision incredibly significant to the resulting outcome. Significant simplicity should stand out as special, beautiful, and useful based on the value of either the product or service designed. I often find myself thinking of this phrase. It helps me remember that within the border of simplicity there must lie a depth and value that is intrinsic to the simplest choices. There must be a reason to keep things; not a reason to get rid of them.

But in a world where everything is becoming increasingly simplified, the balance is off. If the simple is shallow, complexity could actually be a relief. It can be a spot for your eyes to rest and to engage. But how can complexity offer this? It must be clear. “Clear Complexity” is a detailed-driven, organized, visual solution that grabs your attention and holds it long enough to sift through all the elements in front of you and provide the designated message. Clear complexity, in order to work, must be organized, purposeful and offer a depth of information that pulls you in, holds your attention, but doesn’t rob your time.

So how do you know the proper balance? It’s kind of like growing up and learning how to walk or ride a bike. Balance is often learned through trial and error. But the more you do it the more natural it becomes. For a design to be effective and acheive the best balance, you must have a holistic approach to design. You must, from the start, be aware of as many facts as possible surrounding the creation of the piece. The proper balance blends not just elements of design together but it also blends the business factors into the solution as well such as time, finances, audience, demographics, message vehicle, etc.

So when you design consider “significant simplicity” and clear complexity”:

Be aware. Be Balanced. Design.