Aesthetics versus function – a contest of champions in graphic design! 

May 3, 2023

Graphic designers are involved in a constant balancing act between aesthetics and function. 

Tension between aesthetics and function

Tension between aesthetics and function needs to be constantly tweaked and problem solved throughout the creative design process. 

Not only in the field of graphic design but also in the wider world of art in general just what the ideal balance is between aesthetics and function is something that has been debated for centuries by some of history’s greatest philosophers! 

The Centre for Universal Design Australia considers the relationship between function and aesthetics in an article by Carolyn Ahmer highlighting the essential qualities of design as being both quantitative and qualitative. Sensory experiences produced by a design and its specifications are equally important! 

You could think of aesthetics and function as being constantly involved in a game of tug of war! It is a design relationship often explored in architectural and interior design magazines as well as graphic design publications and art forums. 

Just like in other creative fields aesthetics and function are super stars in the world of graphic design! 

According to the American Psychological Association, aesthetics is important to design on the condition that functionality has been effectively met. This idea is explored further in Consumer response to over styling: Balancing aesthetics and functionality in product design

Too many trade-offs between aesthetics and function will likely cause a design to fail! 

Aesthetics in graphic design include things such as scale, pattern, colour, shape, texture, line, movement, and balance. Examples of elements relating to function in graphic design include things such as using drop down menus and buttons incorporated in website designs. 

Function in graphic design is measured in terms of whether the design works. Does it meet the needs of potential users? Are the specific goals such as education, sales or entertainment achieved through the design? Are problems worked through and solved in the final design outcome? 

Project briefs could be thought of as the blueprint for the function of a design in the context of graphic design. A project brief is typically communicated via client meetings and used by the graphic designer to come up with concepts, artwork and layouts that will fulfil agreed goals. 

Good graphic design outcomes use aesthetics in such a way as to enhance a design’s function. Balancing the two elements of aesthetics and function, where there is no winner of the tug of war contest, increases the chance of success in the final design! 

If you are thinking about how to balance aesthetics and function within your design project and would like to work with an experienced graphic design agency, then contact us!