Lessons from Design: Pick a Theme

There are as many ways to create a well-made design as there are designers themselves. I saw this fact come to life in design class—beautiful designs don’t necessarily converge on one style of arranging elements, one set of color schemes, or one type of typographic treatment. In fact, beautiful (and practical) designs show an abundance of unique variety. However, there is at least one trait that unites all well-made designs, and all well-made stories too: they all stick to a theme.

Themed design doesn’t have to be neat and tidy. Some designs are consistently messy, consistently weird, or consistently splattered with super-bright colors. The key here is the word “consistency.” Even though there’s always a subjective aspect to creative endeavors, if your design is consistent, I’ll be able to face those super-neon colors boldly and say, “Yep, I see what you did there. You were going for a neon look, which I’d prefer that you toned down, but I can see the pattern anyway. This was purposefully designed.”

Themed storytelling and design is really the only way to go. Without a theme, audiences won’t know where you’re taking them, and they won’t know whether they’ll enjoy the ride. Without a theme, you’re basically making abstract art.

Audiences will tolerate and even enjoy experimental themes when it feels like there’s a pattern behind the chaos, and a guide who knows what they’re doing. By all means, experiment fearlessly! But remember to pick a theme.


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