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quick and easy design tips for everyone

quick and easy design tips for everyone


Find out why good design is like Italian pizza.

Starting a creative design project from scratch can feel both exhilarating and overwhelming when you consider all possibilities you can explore. But by anchoring design projects with a project brief and core design principles, you can streamline this process while leaving space to produce exciting results. To help us navigate all this, designer and Shillington teacher Spencer Harrison shares his quick and easy design tips for everyone.

Respect the brief when designing for a client

When undertaking client-based design work, Spencer asks us to always answer the brief. “It’s different if you’re working on a self-initiated project for yourself but if you’re creating a piece of design for a client, make sure you’re answering the brief,” he says. “Design is about communication and solving problems and we have to make sure we’re helping our client’s business flourish with clear, visual communication.”

If you’re creating personal work be sure to play and have fun

Give yourself permission to enjoy the creative process and be open to what you discover along the way. “When making personal work my advice is to play, have fun and don’t overthink it too much,” explains Spencer. “When you enjoy the process of making, that’s when your creativity is at its purist. You can keep in mind colour, simplicity and other principles, but embracing the process is the fun bit about being creative and a designer.”

Five simple design principles to think about when creating

While Spencer encourages his students at Shillington to play with design, he believes good design always considers five core design principles and asks his students to integrate these into their work. “Everything we teach at Shillington is based around the five core design principles, which are alignment, repetition, contrast, balance and hierarchy,” he lists. “We use these when looking at design, critiquing design and making design.”

Spencer's David Jones installation

Keep your design simple

Spencer likens good design to good Italian pizza, where few ingredients work together to make magic. “We can have a tendency to think there’s not enough on the page but often the best things in life are simple, take Italian pizza for instance, which often highlights one or two ingredients,” he explains. “When working in design, before you start adding all of these extra design ingredients, consider taking a few off.”

Don’t be afraid of contrasting colours

Whether you’re switching up your interiors or making a birthday card for a mate, Spencer encourages bold use of colour for impactful results. “My top tip for colour is to go for contrast, for example having a light tone with a dark tone will help you make memorable pieces of design.”

Spencer in his studio surrounded by work from his recent Lyrical Metrical exhibition.

Embrace blank spaces in your design

Blank spaces in a design layout help achieve overall balance, so if you feel the urge to fill them up, resist. “A tip I got from my design teacher that I now pass onto my students at Shillington is embracing blank space,” explains Spencer. When laying out a design and composition, try not to fill all four corners of the page. “If you leave some areas of the composition blank, it kind of allows the eye to travel and make the design appear less static and give it more movement.”

A singular font makes a bold impact

Design is all about communication and if your design incorporates typography make sure it’s easy to read. It’s tempting to value beauty ahead of practicality, but if the font is difficult to read by the user, it’s not doing its job. For non-designers or those starting out, when integrating fonts into your design Spencer advises to “keep things simple and don’t use too many fonts, one font is good and can be powerful”.

These tips to help us see the world as designers were produced in partnership with Shillington. If you’re keen on studying graphic design this year (either full-time or part-time), take a peep at Shillington’s on-campus courses starting in May and September 2021 and online courses starting in September 2021.