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What are the characteristics of a good design?
Consistency is the most important element of a successful good design. Consistency covers all of the content down to the smallest elements, such as the amount of letterspacing in your body copy. How information is presented should reflect the tone and personality of the publication.
Use a Grid
A consistent publication has a solid structure, or grid, that determines where all of the pieces of a story reside on the page. If the personality of a publication is clean and sophisticated, or energetic, the amount of space that is used around elements should reflect that personality. The negative space creates a clean professional mood that is reflective of the content.
Stick with three typefaces
Keep it simple. No more than three typefaces. Creativity and storytelling are not born out of scrolling through the entire Adobe, Bitstream, or Font Bureau type libraries looking for a pretty typeface. It's a waste of time. Time is better spent examining the story for the visual nuances it contains, then use your one standard headline face in an expressive way.
Color palette reflects voice
Create a color palette that reflects the voice of your publication. If you look back at the project mission statement you'll find clues to color choices. Words like intimate and energetic bring to mind blues and fiery oranges. The key is to develop a palette that gives you enough variety, while limiting the number of hues used. For instance, grass green is different than sage green in personality.