Design Skills: Robin Williams teaches you (non-designer) the basics of design


Is it possible to learn the basics of design…with a book? I think it is. The book that makes it happen, is Robin Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Design Book. After reading it:

  • You will know how items are placed in a design
  • You will know how to choose the right type(s) for your design
  • You will know how to choose the right colors for your design

Even if you’re not interested in design, sometimes you have to use basic design principles. The first situation that comes to mind, is composing a “resume”(you are applying for a job at least once in our life). Standing out from the piles of applications helps you get your foot in the door. Other uses can be business related: newsletters, business cards, brochures, advertising. It’s important that your customers perceive you in a certain way, distinguishing you from the competition.

Something specific I really liked

One of the most memorable part of the book was the acronym: CRAP. Yes, that’s something you should keep in mind, when composing a design. What it really means is that you should pay attention to Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. Basic principles of design that appear in every well-designed piece of work.

The author describes the principles as follows:


The Principle of Contrast states: Contrast various elements of the piece to draw a reader’s eye into the page. If two items are not exactly the same, then make them different. Really different.

Contrast not only serves to draw in the eye, but you can use it to organize information, clarify the hierarchy, guide a reader around the page, and provide a focus.


The Principle of Repetition states: Repeat some aspect of the design throughout the entire piece. The repetitive element may be a bold font, a thick rule (line), a certain bullet, design element, color, format, spatial relationships, etc. It can be anything that a reader will visually recognize.

Repetition goes beyond just being naturally consistent—it is a conscious effort to unify all parts of a design.


The principle of Alignment states: Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every item should have a visual connection with something else on the page.The principle of alignment forces you to be conscious—no longer can you just throw things on the page and see where they stick.


The Principle of Proximity states: Group related items together. Move them physically close to each other so the related items are seen as one cohesive group rather than a bunch of unrelated bits.

Here are some motivational results you can expect, when applying these principles