One of the most common questions I get from non-designers is “how do I know when my design is good enough to publish?” People seem to think that there’s some magical gut feeling to tell you that “wow, now it is ready and amazing.” The truth is, even experienced professional designers, prone to strive for perfection, use checklists and cheatsheets to define when a design is final and “done.”
A mentor once told me: “digital product is never truly done because you can tweak it forever.” This is both good and bad. It is good because if you made an error or found out something new that has an impact on your product, you can go and improve your design and re-publish. But it can also be bad because most of the times you have deadlines and goals. And actually, perfection is not desired nor does it even matter. Good design is what matters. And that is what I am going to help you achieve.
So, how do you know when your design is good enough and ready to be published? It depends on the design you’re creating, but let’s assume that you’re creating design assets for your brand. Below I’ve created two cheatsheets (logo and layout) to help you evaluate whether your design is good enough to be published.
Logo is a tough one to evaluate because there are so many things that can make a logo successful. And not all of those things are directly visible in the design. In any case, I will list questions you should ask yourself before you declare your logo ready:
Does the metaphor or your logo symbol reflect your offering, mission or vision, or a signature process you may have? Essentially, does the metaphor either depict what it is you sell or who you are?
Does the aesthetic reflect the personality or your brand? You will need you brand personality defined before you can assess this.
Do the colors align with your brand guidelines? You will need to have your brand design system built for this step.
Is the aesthetic appropriate for your ideal customer?
Does the logo (physically) scale well to different sizes? This is the most common issue I see with logos created by non-designers — and well, by professional designers as well. If the size contrast between logo elements is too big (some elements are much bigger than others, typically graphics vs text), the logo won’t scale well to small sizes that are often used on mobile version of your site, in the corner of your instagram post, or on a business card. This is because when the larger elements in your logo are appropriately small for the use, the much smaller elements (typically text) have become illegible.
Are there elements in the logo that can easily become a standalone element and that can be used for an app icon, on a clothing tag, as a social media profile picture, etc? This one is optional. If you are a service provider and know that you have no need for a standalone element, then you can ignore this one.
Are the texts legible? In large sizes? In small sizes?
Are the graphics clean and clear? No pixelation visible, edges are crisp/clean unless the style requires otherwise
Do you own the copyright to the design of your logo [important] If you hire a freelance designer or an agency, make sure that it spells out in the contract that you will own the rights to the design of your logo. I’ve heard about cases where there has been confusion who actually owns the copyrights. And I even know about cases where the designer tried to deny the business owner from making changes to the logomark due to the rights of the graphics not being transferred to the business owner in their contract.
Is the design timeless? This one is my personal preference to add. Ideally, your logo will stand time and you don’t have to redesign it too often. If your brand becomes successful, your logo will start accruing value in recognizability and customer loyalty. And you want to keep that.
Layout design is a bit easier to evaluate, but there are also more variables you have to consider. Below I list some general rules that can be applied to almost any layout design. Not all rules will necessarily apply in your case. And some of the things below will only apply to text heavy documents with lots of body copy).
Is all the required content included in the layout? This sounds super boring, but is actually very important to check. Did you remember to include everything you need to? The only thing worse than having a bad layout design is missing some important content content.
Is the content hierarchy immediately clear? Will the reader know where to start from and how to proceed? Hand in hand with this goes: are you prioritizing the right things in your content? This is more about content strategy, but it does affect the design as well.
Are you using a consistent grid? This will affect the alignment of items on the page. Do the items align well and consistently (especially left edges in the left-to-right reading countries)?
Are you following the rule of thirds? The most important elements are placed according to rule of thirds to create interest and balance.
Is the visual style of the layout consistent and unified? Do you use header and body styles for your text consistently? Do you have consistent image style and cropping?Are you using colors consistently? When in doubt, use color sparingly and only add one or two colors in addition to black or dark grey.
Are your font choices appropriate? For example, don’t use Comic Sans or a script font for a business document. If you have brand guidelines, use the fonts that were specified there.
Are you pairing fonts appropriately? Rule of thumb is: don’t combine more than two different typefaces (fonts), and pair together sans serif and serif. When in doubt, use only one typeface and select one that has a good selection of different weights and styles (e.g. light, medium, regular, bold, semi-bold, etc.). Then use the different styles and weights of that one typeface to create hierarchy, balance, and visual interest.
Are your type sizes age appropriate? Don’t use tiny mouse type if your audience is elderly people.
Are your type sizes appropriate for the selected font? Don’t use a script font in small sizes because it won’t be legible. If you’re in doubt, test it. Show your layout to few people and ask “can you read that?”
Do you have appropriate amount of content per page? Don’t over stuff your pages with text. Breathing space (the notorious “white space”) helps reader to focus themselves to what is coming next.
Are your columns the appropriate width? 9-12 words per column is recommended for English language. You can adjust the word amount per row by adjusting the type size or the column width.
Do you have appropriate amount of margins around your layout? Will people be printing this? Are they going to put it in binder? Is it going to be viewed on a mobile device? All these things will affect the margins.
Is your imagery appropriate for the topic and audience?
Are the images high enough resolution for the size and purpose (print vs digital)?
Are important details like dates, prices, and contact info easily found?
Do you have a comfortable balance between large and small elements on the layout? Visual interest and balance can be created by combining large and small elements. For example, most successful web landing pages out there will have one really large element (typically the featured hero image), a few medium sized elements (the offerings or services), and a few small elements (social media icons, contact info/links, navigational items). This is especially important for poster style layouts such as flyers, (visual) social media posts, and well, posters.
Have you thought of all different types of readers? How does your layout design serve and support someone who has: Two seconds to glance? Two minutes to browse?Two hours to sit down and read everything carefully?
There you have a few things to check form your design, when you’re having difficult time deciding whether your design is good enough to be published. Let me know what you’re working on in the comments. And check out our facebook page for more design tips: https://www.facebook.com/dlycreative/