Conviction in Visual Design

September 12, 2013

I’ve been designing websites since I was 17. My first personal site looked something like this…

Too Light, Cant Read

Yep, Helvetica at a 30º angle in the #bbb range. I’m pretty sure I was using image maps, too. It was rough to say the least.

I always found myself unattracted to anything darker than “light gray.” Maybe I thought it gave me a professional look – haute couture delivered from Little Rock, Arkansas out of a shitty apartment. Or something.

My designs were decently pleasing to the eye, but I lacked a clear understanding of what design really is: getting a point across. Points don’t get across when they’re not readable.

It’s a common theme on Dribbble, Behance, and other design sites. White background, a light gray block of text, and you’re done. Sometimes I find myself staring at something similar even today only to shake myself and keep working on something more pragmatic.

Conviction, in the way I’m trying to present it, means not being scared of the content, but embracing it. It’s very easy to look at a block of text as simply a visual feature – a visual feature that looks much too optically heavy in black – but it’s not just decoration; it’s meant to be read. Light-gray on white is not easy to read, especially for anyone with any eye issues whatsoever.

Next time you’re staring at a layout, consider the readability of what you’re presenting, not just the visual aesthetic. Use a tool such as Snook’s Color Contract Checker to make sure you’re using colors that will adequately stand out from their backgrounds and make for an enjoyable reading experience.

Don’t be scared to venture below #444.