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Breaking the Rules of Graphic Design

paint brushes

The practice of graphic design is really a study in rules. Understanding what makes some solutions successful and some non-successful isn’t based on a mystical talent, but through awareness of the rules that visual language is centered around. It’s how we get things to “just look right” or “feel nice.” These rules are our general elements of design (balance, hierarchy, yada yada), but they can also extend to outline and regulate hyper-specific aspects of a designer’s job (things like color palettes, formatting and typography).

These rules are paramount when refining your skill set as a designer, and they lay the foundation for every project that hits your desk. However, as with anything else, whenever a rule is put in place, there is immediate kick-back to push or break it.

Luckily for us, breaking those creative rules can lead to some of the most interesting and refreshing work around. We’ll go over a few examples of work that’s being made pushing these rules and how to successfully expand upon your skill set.

In Practice

It’s becoming more and more common to see larger companies coming out with extreme new visual identities that push the envelope of what their perceived style should be as a response to an overwhelming trend toward minimal and safe aesthetics.

Spotify updated their brand recently to include harsh duo-toned portraits of their artists using visually clashing colors to provide a vibrant, electric feel to their promotional materials. They even went so far as to create their own plugin to generate these images to ensure maximum contrast.

It’s super successful because it cuts a niche in the music streaming advertising arena and provides a really unique visual solution. Judging by the tons of “Spotify Colorizer Tutorials” going around now, they’ve really hit on something that resonates with people. However, this technique is based around selecting colors that will vibrate off of one another to an extreme, something that on paper would be a huge no-no in the design world.

Without breaking out of their foundation, the designers at Spotify would never have asked “I wonder if it would be cool to use analogous colors at an 11, even though everything I’ve been told tells me that would be terrible?