Let me tell you something, throughout my career as a graphic designer, I’ve heard so many design principles and rules you should stick to, I can’t even count them anymore. Some are just ridiculous and should be ignored but others are good to know and a few are really principles that become mantras in your life. The KISS principle (or Keep it simple, stupid) is one of the latter. In this post, I want to show you why and how to use it in design.
What is KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)?
This phrase was coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works, in 1960. Although he wasn’t actually talking about graphic design back then, KISS has become a well-known principle that graphic designers apply to their layouts ever since.
The principle’s meaning isn’t difficult to understand and very similar to “Less is more”. It stresses the importance of simplicity and urges you not overcomplicate your design.
Why is the KISS principle important in design?
A clean and simple design is focused on the audience. Of course, you want to always create with your audience in mind, but the KISS principle takes this one step further.
Even just talking functionality, a simple design is easier to produce and to access. (fast-loading digital graphics, less cost for printing, easy to share)
Less is more
Most important information is easy to find and to grasp. With short attention spans and immense overflow of information, it’s necessary to be absolutely clear in your message. You do this by breaking a long text into paragraphs and using headlines to skim content quickly or making important information stand out e.g. in size.
If it’s simple to understand, it’s easier for your audience to get the information they need and to take the action you want them to take e. g. buy your newest product or mark a date in their calendar.
How to create something based on the KISS principle?
You might think a simple design is boring and unattractive but that doesn’t have to be the case. You just need to learn how to make the best out of the most basic things you have. The result will be appealing to your audience and, even more important, it will be effective.
Start with a plan
So how do you KISS-proof your design? Before you start, you need to define the purpose of your design. You have to think about two things. Why are you creating this design and who is your audience. If you have a plan it’s easier to stick to the important stuff. Plus, the end result will be actionable because your audience will instantly figure out what they are supposed to do.
Reduce everything that might be distracting. This means to stick with a limited amount of colors, fonts and style elements in your design. With every element you add, ask yourself “Does this add value?”. If it doesn’t, then there’s no reason for it to be there. It’s as simple as that. There are other rules you can apply to your design. Find out more: The basics of good design
Related post: The basics of good design