I love playing board games and this is the time of year I enjoy staying up late with my family trying to prove my dominance, but failing game after game. A few of our favorites are Catan and Ticket to Ride, and even though I’m not very good, I love the competitiveness it brings. 

Have you ever played a game so much, that sometimes you tweak the original rules and create a ”house rule” to make the play a bit more effective for you and those you are playing with? Sometimes these house rules are pretty good, but there are times those house rules don’t make sense and just take the enjoyment out of things.

Design has a bit of the same concept of adding a house rule to a board game. There are many design principles and methods that should be followed at all times to allow for a good experience. But as you design more, and as you have more experience working with different clients, customers, and users, those basic design principles might need you to add a “house rule” into the design to make it a bit more effective.

What are the Gestalt Principles
Recently taking another course through IxDF, it was time to learn and get certified in “The Ultimate Guide to Visual Perception and Design”. It was a short beginner course that I was afraid was going to be a bit boring, but it was so good to jump back into the basics of visual design. At times when I have felt stagnant and lost some creativity, I have found jumping back into the basics is a great way to build that creativity, to stretch myself more, and keep developing new skill sets. 

I will be honest though, I learned about the Gestalt Principles back in the day, but it was probably 20 years ago and I seem to have forgotten the actual term, and I was in a funk of designing using the technique of “oh that looks good…” instead of following actual principles. I hope I’m not the only designer that has ever felt that. IxDf defines the Gestalt Principles as,

“…principles/laws of human perception that describe how human’s group similar elements, recognize patterns and simplify complex images when we perceive objects. Designers use the principles to organize content on websites and other interfaces so it is aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand.”

It has been told to designers and many others in various fields, that we are problem solvers. Clients and users give us content and it’s up to us to figure out the best way to display and organize that content. Sometimes in different positions I have held, projects have required me to just hurry and put something together with not much thought. I know I have been able to easily organize content in my designs because of my art and design background from early on, but I also acknowledge most of the time it probably wasn’t the best.

House Rules for Designers
Going back to the house rules, it’s always nice to have that foundation of the way things should be done and the foundation of good practices. Design is awesome because it’s one of those industries where you have rules that you should follow, but most of the time it’s like the pirate code where the rules are more guidelines than actual rules. With design being more guidelines, it allows you to add in your house rules where you see them fit best to give the users a better experience. 

During the IxDF course, it stated many times to “Have fun with the Gestalt laws. They might not seem like a path to creative or distinctive displays, but with careful consideration, these perceptual phenomena present us with concrete ways of guiding our projects. This does not, however, mean that they should constrain your creative flair; they are, instead, design considerations that will help you make the right choices for most, if not all, of your users.”

So it is important to have that foundation of best practices because then it allows you more freedom to rely on the basics, but still be able to give designs your own personal touch and creativity when you see the need to or when it might add a little more to it.

Design can be and at times an “it just feels right” skill that you develop, but that comes after you have learned and built that foundation of knowing true design principles of what makes a visually appealing design. Sometimes it’s important to go back to the basics to remember those design principles so you can continue to develop stronger visual design techniques and concepts. I’m a big believer that people will always care about the design of something well before anything else, so it’s critical to understand and always fall back on those design principles that will help your designs. And once you do, start creating all the house rules you want.

Published On: January 3rd, 2023 / Categories: UX Design /