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The Finer Details of Design

It’s a phrase you hear often: Design is in the details. A famous quote from Charles Eames usually follows “The details are not the details. They make the design.”

Paying attention to small details—and in some cases, obsessively focusing on “what isn’t right”—can take a design from “nearly there” to “there” and beyond. In other words - small details go a long way.

Here’s a checklist to guide and inspire you not to leave even the finer details overlooked.


One of the first keys to a clean design is alignment. Just dropping elements in random places will not give the clean, consistent feel that is associated with some of the best known and looking brands. Proper alignment helps to maintain hierarchy and consistency in design. Note how things line up horizontally across the page when working with images and text elements. Do the tops of each item rest in a straight line? What about the bottom of each element? You also want to keep an eye on the vertical alignment. Make sure the widths of elements are consistent and pay special attention to the empty spaces between elements. One of the most efficient ways to keep your items aligned properly is to work with a grid. When working with grid it’s not about what type or size the grid is but about giving your design a structure by helping you design with alignment in mind.


Certain elements will always garner more attention than others in your designs because of an image or colour or text. You can determine where the eye goes first by planning and using contrast effectively. Establish contrasting elements in your design using colour, text and varying weights. Determine where you will really want attention to go and create the most contrast in that area. One of the easiest ways to create contrast is through colour. Once you have established background and text colours, use something totally different to add emphasis to a certain part. You can also create contrast through a variety of other elements. Combining large and small font sizes or thick and thin typefaces also establish contrast and help develop a sense of hierarchy.


Making type selections and decisions can be one of the toughest parts of designing from scratch. Focus on a limited selection of fonts or font families to keep your design clean. Too many typefaces can ruin even the best project. Plan ahead and use the same font attributes for common items. Play within font families for variety. Different sizes, cases, weights and colour can add variety and contrast without having to add additional fonts.


In the same way as using a limited number of typefaces can benefit design, a limited colour palette can do the same. Determine your colours and decide the colour mixes for each swatch. Use the exact colour mixes throughout the designs. Red is not just red; even slight variances in your colours between elements can be very jarring. Jot down all your colour values as you work on designs. For variances, use tints of each colour for emphasis and added effect. In this case less is definitely more.

To finalize, the most important thing to remember, if nothing else, leaving the little things for later can really hurt your brand especially in this day and age.

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