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Detail and Decoration in Site Design

Detail and decoration are like a double-edged sword. One one hand, visual decoration can make your site unique, personal and creative. However, in some cases it can be tacky, overwhelming and land in the area of kitsch. Kitsch can be defined as something gaudy, overdone, melodramatic, tacky, mass-produced or low-quality. Think of the worst puppy-dog painting on a wall-hanging plate or the piles or do a web search on artist Jeff Koons and look for his Michael Jackson and Bubbles figurine.

So how do you use detail and decoration to your advantage? One answer is to always question their usage throughout the design process. Do these details complement the design or concept? Why would it be decorated a certain way? Do the decorative elements arise from the functionality of the design or are they applied separately? Most importantly, is the decoration relevant to the total design? Subtle, well-thought abstract details and texture work well for larger areas while smaller, creative uses or logos and branding work in more prominent places.

My art professor always used to tell us not to be seduced by decoration. The idea here is that with too much decoration, your design runs the risk of looking busy and kitschy. The key is to know when you’ve gone to far and need to pull back. Websites are great because they allow for easy testing and removal of ideas that don’t necessarily work. Use this to your advantage. If you aren’t sure what the effect will be, just try it out and get some feedback. Nothing is necessarily right or wrong, but what works well and best.

Who gives you the best feedback on your site design ideas?  Where do you look for feedback?