Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Doug Chiang's Keys to Good Design

In his book, Mechanika, Doug Chiang outlines 6 tips that he believes makes a good and lasting concept design;

1. A Strong Silhouette

Design for iconic shapes. Always think in terms of strong silhouettes before focusing on the fine details. Squinting your eyes occansionally will help you concentrate on this. Remember, details embelish the overal design but don't determine it.

2. The Three-Second Rule

With Iconic shapes in mind, create designs that can be understood in three seconds or less. The three-second rule evolved out of my film experience. Often audiences have less than three seconds to understand what they are viewing before the shot changes, so it is essential to keep the design clear. For example, if it's a vehicle, the viewer must be able to determine quickly where the pilot sits, in which direction the vechile is going, it's purpose, etc. These things may sound simple, but they are often neglected. Always strive to keep the overall form easy to understand.

3. Personality

Ask yourself: Is this design powerful? Weak? Menacing? Are those the traits reflected in the design? When Personality is infused into your designs, the end result is more effective.

4. Functionality

Would the design work? You must have an idea how your design would function. Confirm functionality before moving onto the next question.

5. Believability

Is it plausable? Does it look as if it can perform the function that you designed it to? This is the believability test. This doesn't mean that every joint and hinge needs to be figured out in great detail, but a basic appearance of practical function is essential.

6. Cool Factor

This one is very subjective and a bonus if it can be achieved. This is the emotional difference between a sports car and a commutuer car. Both vehicles are made for transport and both have the same basic configuration, but one addresses it's purpose with much greater flair. Do the same in your designs.


These are some pretty good guide lines to keep in mind when it comes to designing and I feel that Mechanika has been a huse help in understanding the methods and techniques that a professional can use. Next I'll be moving on from Mechanika and starting to look at work from various "art of" books.

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