There's a natural resistance to keeping rules. It's part of the human dilemma. We want people to obey our rules, but we resist their rules on us. Designers are no different. We might even be worse than the average person. Our desire to be creative can drive us to stretch or ignore the rules of design, or the client's wishes.
However, the goal of good design does not require breaking rules. When you break rules you don't understand, you simply break the rules. You don't produce something worthwhile. No matter the experience level of the designer, the goal of design is to communicate.
Inexperienced designers may think getting attention is the goal of design. And creativity is the means of getting that attention. But getting attention is rarely the only goal, especially with clients. Design is a communication discipline. Design for the sake of the designer is fine art. Design for the sake of dressing something up is decoration. Design for the sake of communicating for emotional connection is true design. Design is a service industry. So serve.
When can I break from the rules?
It's true that rules exists for the designer, not the designer for the rules. However, the rules exists to help designers communicate well. The mature designer understands that limits and standards allow for creativity, not diminish it. The mature designer understands that rules do not stifle creativity, but aids creativity within a disciplined communication.
A cool font is useless if it distracts from the message the client wants the intended audience to receive. A cool image is useless if it is out of context and out of touch with the brand. A great layout is useless if it confuses the client or her audience.
Creativity is no excuse for lack of discipline. Before breaking any rules, seek to understand the rules first. Then ask the right questions:
- What are the rules? Are they design standards, client standards, brand standards, or just someone's opinions?
- Why do the rules exist? What are they designed to promote or protect?
- Are they really rules? Could they just be guidelines or general principles?
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