Are there too many rules in your design?


Over the last 6 months I have been having a lot of discussions with my team about the way a creative process should flow across the numerous different outputs we deliver (apps, web sites, graphics, social pages etc).

Over the last week I have also seen a number Designers discussing trying to find 'the right way' to build their design. Is there a right way? Maybe I have read too much Tom Peters, but to me I believe the design has to have a purpose. Commercial design, innovative design needs to solve something, fix something, make something better, or be something totally new.   Truly great design should be a very creative output. If that output is controlled  by too many rules can it truly be creative?

Will it be the best or right design for it's job? defines Creative thus:


[kree-ey-tiv-i-tee, kree-uh-] noun

1. the state or quality of being creative.
2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns,relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful
     newideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality,progressiveness, or imagination
So if you design by following the rules laid down by others are you truly being creative?

In a talk with Mark Pagel titled "Infinite Stupidity" this quote (amongst many stood out)

...What this means is that social learning may have set up a situation in humans where, over the last 200,000 years or so, we have been selected to be very, very good at copying other people, rather than innovating on our own.....
To me, current web design methods and applications are dictated by too many rules.
Too much copying. Very little imagination.
The way design trends take over every app and site are a classic example of how a concept that someone truly creative made has been copied to death.  So much better for the budget to just mimic someone else. So much easier to be a designer if I just find what seems to appeal and mimic it.
While in delivering great content a simple blog template will suffice, so many more things should be in my opinion "designed to within an inch of their lives"
When you design, do you challenge why you do something, or why you follow what someone else did before? Does it make sense?
Or do you lay out clear goals for what this thing you are building has to achieve and do whatever you need to in your design process to make that goal happen?

In our desire to have everything near free and conform to "someone's rules of layout and delivery" have we become infinitely stupid and lazy?

To me true, or real, design achieves its intended purpose with the greatest simplicity for why it is being created in the first place. That doesn't mean it has to follow anyone's rules (even this one).
Make your design do it's work!
Well that's what ireckon!
what do you reckon?


  1. Interesting read Darryl. I think web design these days its not driven by rules as much but by the amount of content that has to be added. Clients that I am working with are asking for more and more pieces of content to be added to each page, post and app. It has become a real balancing act to ensure that you have a nice clean, simple and creative design whilst adding all the important pieces of content that the client has asked for.

  2. Hey Andrew, these relates specifically to conversations where rule based design was being discussed. It also refers to some of those oft quoted rules about where X should go, there are so many of them influencing designers but they aren’t overt influences now because they just follow them without challenging why.

    There is of course still that question of “..Just because a client asks for it… ” but hey that’s a whole different debate 🙂

  3. I will have to, although if by Hard Cover you mean Printed, then that’s a rule I have — NO Buy unless it’s Electronic. But can I borrow yours? 😛

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