The Simple Secret to Better Design

The golden rule of design is simple, and based on the golden ratio: make sure no two elements are exactly the same. This concept came from my studies in painting and composition, but they can really be applied to any kind of design.

Let’s start with the basics - a painting composition. Let’s say, a landscape. Sky, trees, grass, etc. If you have all of these elements emphasized exactly the same, you will have a boring design. Instead, use different design elements to shake things up and vary them.

And this concept not only applies to art, but also any kind of visual design- typography, graphic design, interior design, fashion design. Let’s take another simple example - how to artfully arrange a console or side table (interior design). If you have everything the same size, shape and spacing, it will be rigid. Change up some of the sizes and shapes, add a pop of color here and there, and all of a sudden you have a dynamic arrangement!

Are you interested in chalk lettering or calligraphy? This has exactly the same application. Check out these two examples:

So you see, the golden rule of design is really quite simple - never make two elements of your design exactly the same. It takes some play and experimentation to get it right, but this rule of thumb can help guide you to design perfection!

Shelby is an artist and designer living in Durham, NC after almost a decade as an expat. You can find her original art and accessories at