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Aesthetics

Aesthetics is a core design principle that defines a design’s pleasing qualities.

In visual terms, aesthetics includes factors such as

  • Balance
  • Color
  • Movement
  • Pattern
  • Scale
  • Shape
  • Visual weight

Designers use aesthetics to complement their designs’ usability, and so enhance functionality with attractive layouts.

“Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.”

Paul Rand

Aesthetics in Design ≠ Art

Aesthetics is an age-old principle that revolves around the nature of beauty and the fact that people prefer pretty things. It’s central to the fields of architecture, graphic design and more.

As a vital ingredient in UX design and interaction design, aesthetics impacts an interface’s UX in several ways.

Humans are hard-wired for visual input, and users’ first impressions typically form in 50 milliseconds – as their gut reactions guide them to either continue using your design/product or abandon it.

For example, when your product has good aesthetics, you:

  1. Create an attractiveness bias – to appeal to users on a visceral level, leading to:
    1. Emotional design
    2. More traffic
    3. More time spent on site and page/screen views
    4. A lower bounce rate
  2. Make users more tolerant of usability issues – Studies show that users rate visually appealing designs as more usable than they truly are. This aesthetic-usability effect has been explored extensively, notably by UX design pioneer and author Don Norman.

Here are some key points:

  • Visual appeal exists in objectivity and subjectivity – While some aesthetic choices will resonate with all users and others will be flawed. Some aspects of your users—including their culture, age and educational level—will impact how they perceive/receive your design.
  • Let form follow function – This classic design concept means an object’s form (aesthetic design) should stem from the function it executes.

“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.”

Charles Eames

Therefore, it’s vital to set out well-chosen page/screen elements harmoniously and with a good visual hierarchy so you:

  • Guide the user’s eye to the page/screen’s functionality
  • Make the aesthetics with what users expect to see consistent

  • Remember the context – Users access and use designs and products in—often complex and sometimes chaotic—real-world situations. They’ll want to achieve goals and get results , and need simple, crisp layouts with elements that maximize ease of use. You can use aesthetics to highlight your design’s most crucial functionality and mute or disguise less critical functions. Good aesthetics can be extremely simple, as Google.com demonstrates.

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Above all, design is a conversation with your users. Your element and layout choices should show your users the right things in the right way while telling them a fresh, captivating story about your brand.

Unlike art, good design aesthetics should be easily understandable – where users never have to guess what your design means.

To dive deeper

10 principles for good design by Dieter Rams

1 - Good design is innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

2 -Good design makes a product useful

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

3 -Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

4 - Good design makes a product understandable

It clarifies the product's structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

5 - Good design is unobtrusive

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.

6 - Good design is honest

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful, or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7 - Good design is long-lasting

It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years - even in today's throwaway society.

8 - Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

9 - Good design is environmentally friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10 - Good design is as little design as possible

Less, but better - because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

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