Even with the digital revolution, visual design and its underlying principals haven’t really changed for the last 50 years. I was surprised when I read that in Why Design Hasn’t Changed a Bit in the Past 50 Years by James George on the Design Festival website. I thought for sure that with the advent of electronic communications and social media that couldn’t be true.
The article explained negative space and how book margins are determined for both print and electronic versions. I learned that the application of the rule of thirds for composition was first recorded in the late 1790’s. Even older than that is the Golden Ratio which determines the most aesthetically pleasing ratio between areas in a composition. Examples of this can be found in the structure of a seashell as well as the Mona Lisa.
My favorite part of the article will make my UX and IA friends happy. For many years I have heard them quote Hick’s Law and Fitt’s law while reviewing visual designs for me. Hick’s law basically states that the time it takes to make a selection from a menu of items is determined by how the information is organized. The more information presented the more time it will take for your visitor to find what they’re looking for. Fitt’s law looks at the size of your menu items and states that visitors will instinctively navigate to the largest menu on the page.This can be good or bad depending on your goals. The author illustrates these laws quite well using the craigslist and eBay websites.
While the underlying principals haven’t changed but visual designers still need to apply the principals correctly in all the different digital communication vehicles we use today. The biggest challenge will continue to be that you cannot always control the size of the view-port or client side software where your target audience sees your message. We must think beyond a fixed page.