CRAP part one: Let’s find CRAP in our everyday life!

The design world is FULL OF CRAP. I mean FULL of it. And I don’t mean, like, 💩. Though odds are there’s some of that going on too. It’s a fact of life, people! AnyWHO, moving on now to design CRAP: we’re talking

C ontrast
R epetition
A lignment
P roximity

Sound unexciting? NONSENSE! CRAP is super exciting, because by being aware of these four lovely concepts we can produce some really beautiful design. Your fave album cover? CRAP. (Unless this is your favourite album, because I’m sorry, I will never get why they chose this cover art. ALTHOUGH check out those contrasting colours!) Your history textbook? Probably CRAP. That birthday card you bought for $.99 at your local dollar store because it’s your Mom’s birthday and you just remembered that you hadn’t bought a card yet? Well… hopefully, CRAP! Good design is truly everywhere and there’s some pretty fab examples of CRAP in action out there.  LET’S CHECK IT OUT!

Example Numero Uno:  I looked at a lot of really great, interesting movie posters while working on this blog post, but the one set that drew my attention were the posters for Denis Villeneuve’s 2014 film Enemy. One big reason for that was because they were all really cool posters. The other reason these posters all really stuck out to me, though, is that there is very little cohesion between the four posters. They do contain some similar elements: a couple use the same font, Jake Gyllenhall appears in two, and at least two make some use of spider imagery. But there’s really no sense that, oh yeah, these were all totally done by the same guy and in line with one concentrated vision. They could basically all be for totally different movies! Personally? I don’t get it. I’m no commerce student BUT I feel like that’s a pretty ineffective marketing strategy! So that was kind of strange.

enemy-ver2-xxlgenemy-poster 2


However, MARKETING QUIRKS ASIDE – I find that each poster stands up really well as an example of good graphic design on its own! As individual posters they’re all quite striking. Though I’m including the whole set in this point for viewer interest and to illustrate my point, the one I’d like to focus on in terms of CRAP principles is this black and white one.

It’s immediately evident that this poster is making effective use of contrast.  The stark juxtaposition of white on a solid black background allows for some interesting silhouettes: The white key shape pops out right away, and within the keyhole is a spider. It’s intriguing imagery! The title also stands out really clearly.
This poster is also a good example of alignment: if you ran a line vertically down the middle of the poster, it would be nearly symmetrical. On top of the fact that this is good design, I’m a BIG fan of center alignment and symmetry, so I’m very fond of it’s use in this example!!

Though I love movie posters, and frankly could have rambled on forever in this post about the MANY CRAPpy examples I found in my web wanderings, I decided I needed to expand my horizons and went off in search of CRAP design principles elsewhere. Somehow I eventually landed on

Example Numero Dos: (And by “somehow”, what I really mean is that I googled “snazzy websites”.)

Built By Buffalo

It is, in fact, fairly snazzy, no?! In any case, it’s definitely CRAPpy. There’s definitely some contrast: The blue-green and red-orange that feature prominently into the colour scheme are nicely complementary and the black text stands out on the white background. The repeating hexagon pattern, creating a honeycomb of links, addresses the R. Likewise, this delightful honeycomb effect would not be achieved without solid alignment work! The whole web page is really nicely balanced – all elements are evenly distributed. And finally, we see proximity at play in the hexagons, in both the fact that the shapes are closely clustered and in that many feature similar elements: arrows, “B”’s, and text. These elements are well distributed in that they’re close enough to maintain a sense of cohesion but never right next to each other, which maintains that sense of balance that I mentioned before.

In general, I like the concept of the CRAP principles and I think they’re a useful point of reference to have when designing. It’s probably not impossible to have a perfectly nice design without having a single one of these elements present; however in my googling escapades, and in life in general, when I think of examples of design that I particularly like, almost all employ at least one, if not more, of these principles. They generally do help you make arrive at a more striking, effective, and clean result. Having said that, I think it’s important that as a designer, or – dare I say it – artiste – you don’t get too hung up on these principles. If you can use the principles to refine your creative vision, then WONDERFUL! But if you get to the point where your imagination is being hampered by your quest for CRAP success – which I could totally see happening – then maybe chill out and reassess: is it really that important to have all the CRAP principles incorporated? No way! You can totally have a successful design with just one or two. And the way I see it, if you have a good design, odds are it’s already making use of some CRAP principles. (And if not, well, maybe it actually is a piece of crap?)

Tomorrow: we’ll delve into the exciting world of historical graphic design and its modern applications!


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