Why Do We Give a CRAP?

Luke Richey

Visual Rhetoric Flyer

Discovering Design

Design permeates virtually all aspects of professional communication – from writing resumés, memos, and cover letters to pitching a new product line or advertising an upcoming event. How that information looks matters and can be the difference between it being picked up or thrown away.

Backtrack to Fall 2014 and I had just entered my first professional writing course at UAB – being asked to design the cover for that issue of MEMORANDUM and having absolutely no idea what or how to design. Being a complete novice at the medium, I searched for help anywhere I could find it. Between Robin Williams’s (not the comedian) book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book, and a fellow UAB student and graphic design major, I learned a few tips that could help any professional writing student who wants to start dabbling in design.

Williams stresses the need, when designing, to make CRAP, but the good kind of CRAP. Williams’s CRAP stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. Which, in a nutshell, means –

  • make the design stand out and create an impression on the viewer
  • introduce and repeat common themes throughout the work
  • do not throw space on the page haphazardly
  • organize elements in a way that makes the design “flow” well

When designing, a balance between consistency and contrast creates an effective and appealing design that grabs the viewer’s attention and keeps them interested. When designing, nothing should be arbitrary and words, images, figures, etc. should work well together; enhancing the composition, instead of weakening it.

Identify, Inspect, Innovate

From the graphic design student, whose name unfortunately eludes me, I learned to play with colors and fonts, get inspiration from other sources, and make the design unique – tailoring it to my own preferences. Design can be fun; don’t be afraid to play around and look for things that appeal to you. And yes, it’s alright to look at other designs and other people’s work. This inspiration can spark a concept – an image – that takes from that design and works well with what’s already visualized in your head. Finally, remember to create your own brand, a design that is unique to you and your personality. Just like writing, creating a design that does not fit you can come off as stale and uninteresting. But, trial and error is always a part of the process and will make your designs that much better.

This blog may be useful in understanding more of the basics concerning the four principles of design. For further study, Williams’s book can also be purchased here, if interested.



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