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How to Critique Your Design Projects with Confidence

If the idea of revising your work makes you want to hide in bed all day, you’re not alone. It takes practice to critique your work with an objective eye. We’ve put together a quick checklist to help take on any project with confidence.

It’s essential to double-check your work not only for typos and grammatical errors, but also for design inconsistencies. A good way to self-critique your design or page layout is by seeing how your work holds up against the seven guiding design principles: Balance, scale, contrast, pattern, movement and rhythm, emphasis, and unity.

Even if you aren’t an experienced designer, through practice, you can begin to self-critique and improve upon your design projects with each piece of content you release. Whether you’re creating an ad for Facebook or Instagram within Canva, preparing a presentation, or making adjustments to your company’s website, these principles can help you achieve success.

Let’s break down each of them one by one:


Two design examples showing the Balance dos and don’ts

Balance is important when laying out content for your audience. You never want to have too much information in one place, referred to as visual weight, which will create information overload. A balanced and great design isn’t content heavy nor lacking content; it mixes the perfect amount of content, such as text, with images and white space to allow the readers’ eye time to rest and easily take in your messaging.


Two images comparing the Scale dos/don’ts in design

Depending on your target audience, things like scale are very important. For example, 16pt font may be okay for younger readers, but something like 20pt font would be easier to read for a more mature audience.

You can also use scale to set hierarchy on the page. The use of headers (e.g. H1, H2, H3) is critical to organizing content on a website. The main headline (H1), normally the largest on the page, sets up the reader for the overarching purpose of the page, while the sub-headlines (H2) divide the content into sections for readability.


Contrast example showing dos/don’ts

Colors play a huge role in engaging audiences, but you can also make your content hard to read if there isn’t enough contrast (i.e. text on images or using a neon color on a dull background). Accessibility is important and there are tools you can use to check the contrast of colors.

Try sharing your designs with a colleague or friend for feedback; an outside perspective can offer sound advice on whether something is too difficult to read.


Pattern example showing dos/don’ts

When it comes to creating dense content (ie. reports or presentations), patterns can set the audience’s expectation for what comes next. For example, if you’re making a presentation, keep all the titles in the same location. It is okay to mix it up here and there, but generally, the title of a slide should serve as a digital wayfinder.

The same goes for your website headlines; each page should have one. Make it easy for your website visitors to identify what page they’re looking at and decrease their chances of leaving your website.

Movement & Rhythm

Movement and rhythm example showing dos/don’ts

Every piece of content you create should have a flow or journey, a guided journey that is. You can use the principles highlighted in this article to create a seamless experience.

Just as we read from left to right, people look at visuals in a similar fashion. So if you add a bunch of images throughout an article and break up the content too much, it will create friction for a reader and make it difficult for them to understand the story you’re trying to tell. If you’re creating a website, but it is so rigid and every inch of the page is filled with information, the reader won’t know where to go.

Before creating your design layout, map out your content's primary goal, and make sure the flow helps you achieve your goal.


Emphasis example showing dos/don’ts

Just as you created a pathway for your audience to travel in the previous section, you must now highlight what action or information you want the reader to take. If you have an annual report, you may highlight all the important information, but you should also have a button or link to where your reader can donate. The goal of the annual report is both to educate your supporters and also to drive donorship.

You can take the same approach when it comes to creating an infographic. Emphasize the critical stats with visuals and color and use smaller text (scale) to go into more detail if you need to. Just remember, you can’t emphasize everything. Select the most important things!


Unity example showing dos/don’ts

When your design uses all of the guiding principles above and you have a cohesive story, you can do a little dance! You have created unity. Your audience will have a clear understanding of your organization and they will want to stay tuned in.
It takes practice to create unified visuals, website, presentations, reports, and infographics. If you’d like additional support, reach out to us! We can help you create professional design that communicates your message.

February 13, 2021

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About Acton Circle

We’re Acton Circle, a boutique design agency helping purpose-driven organizations increase their impact. Led by Founder and CEO, Olivia Wheeler, Acton Circle has helped countless change-makers leverage the power of design for social good.

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