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Pruning Your Design


“Clarify your message.”

I couldn’t agree more with these words from Donald Miller.

Read through any brand/marketing copy that hasn’t had a professional scrub, and you’ll see very quickly that people struggle with clear messaging. It’s often a tangled mess of ethos, origin, offerings, features, and facts. It’s a gristly piece of meat, and tough to chew through.

I think Don’s (yeah, I call him Don) mantra applies to design as well. The same tendencies to over-communicate with words make people overcomplicate designs. So logos get bigger, white space gets filled in, background images get added to all copy, and on and on. The result is the viewer is left searching for the message.

It reminds me of being in Times Square. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of stimuli that I nearly had a panic attack. It was like 360º of shouting; visually, verbally, and vocally. I can’t tell you a single thing that I saw there. Nothing stood out. Nothing lasted. The message was lost.

I’ve often joked to people that most of my job is removing things. Take a line out here, a drop-shadow there, a picture, an icon. It’s like pruning. Prune is defined as “trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.” Hear that? To increase fruitfulness and growth.

I honestly think clients want “more” in their designs because they think it justifies cost. I mean, how much is white space worth? In their mind, zero. But in the eye of your audience it could be worth millions if your message gets through.

Design is meant to visually represent your message. If Don is right, and the goal is to clarify your message, then take the shears to your designs as well.

Happy pruning.

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