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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977

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Personal Rules of Design

Every designer has at least one design they would never admit ownership of, even under oath; some of us have a slightly higher number, and I’ve just been reminded of most of my own.

I’ve been reviewing my collection of work recently, for various reasons ranging from self promotion to just digging up old ZIP disks used for project archives, and after spending a good deal of time reviewing over 7 years of my personal efforts (in graphic design and web design), I have reached some conclusions which I thought I would share with you in the form of my new Personal Rules of Design.

These rules (or guidelines. if you prefer) are not fixed, and as such as subject to change as my opinion does. That said, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that they won’t be changing any time soon.

Personal Rules of Design

  1. Never present a design to a client if you wouldn’t use it to promote yourself.
  2. Comps are only comps to the designer; to the client, they are the finished project. As such, only present a comp to your client if you will be pleased with it as a final design.
  3. Whenever you get the urge to tell a client “it’ll take about a week”, bite your tongue, and double or triple that estimate.
  4. When writing a proposal, never forget to include the time it will take to talk with the client, especially if they like the sound of their own voice.
  5. Treat every project as if it were the most important design you had ever created; you never know who will see it.
  6. All your work reflects on your skills as a designer, and on you as a person: make every design mean something, and never allow yourself to be content with a sub-standard design just so you can “get it out the door.”

I can only add that I believe if I had always followed these rules, I would have many more projects to show for the last 6 years. Instead, I hang my head in shame when looking at the majority of work I have produced in the past, and can only imagine the benefits I would currently enjoy had I only been a little more particular about my own standards.

I urge you to create your own version of this list, and do so only after reviewing the last few years worth of your own work: it will make you a better designer, and it will raise your personal standard for every future project.

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Wednesday, May 14th, 2003.

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5 comments on “Personal Rules of Design”

  1. Posted by Erik P. Hanson on Friday, May 16th, 2003.

    7. Don’t design just for your own tastes, design for and target the purpose, product and audience at hand.

  2. Posted by Dan on Friday, May 16th, 2003.

    A good addition Erik, and one that I would have listed on my original list were it not one of my personal, unwritten rules.

    I will say this though: The design should suit the purpose and the audience, however, it must always please you as well. If a design is taylored to a specific viewer but you are not happy with it, do not let it out the door. I believe it is always worth the extra effort and time to make something worthy of inclusion in your own portfolio.

  3. Posted by Erik P. Hanson on Saturday, May 17th, 2003.

    Noted.

    : )

  4. Posted by Ed on Tuesday, May 20th, 2003.

    Thanks for the tips! I’m still trying to figure a lot of this business out. Good to hear some advice from more established designers. Cheers.

  5. Posted by leslie on Wednesday, May 28th, 2003.

    Rule #2 is very true. I’ve been through that headache one too many times!

    I would add: Be honest with the client during proposals. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, no matter how bad the client wants to hear it. Honest answers usually equates to getting a higher rate of honest clients who pay their bills on time.

    Oh, that reminds me. #7: No check, no work. period.