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C.R.A.P. Design: Repetition

I’ve got part two of of my series on what goes into making design good and appealing coming hot off the imaginary internet presses. Click the link to read part one, C.R.A.P. Design: Contrast.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

I’ve got part two of of my series on what goes into making design good and appealing coming hot off the imaginary internet presses. Click the link to read part one, C.R.A.P. Design: Contrast.

C.R.A.P. Design: Contrast
I was introduced to the idea of C.R.A.P. in my first quarter of film school. The class was intro-level typography.

Last time, I went in depth about my design education and how I learned about what goes into making a work of design worth anyone’s time. We went into how higher contrast in an image (or any other medium) can help draw a viewer’s eye to areas the artist wants to accentuate.

To recap, contrast refers to enhancing the brightness or clarity of a design by using different colors or textures. Contrast also includes differences in size and shape. It’s the visual representation of “power.”

We’ve already talked about one element of good design. What are the other three? Using the memorable acronym, C.R.A.P., we can see that good design involves:

  • Contrast
  • Repetition
  • Alignment
  • Proximity

Each of those elements alone can make a piece of design interesting to look at, but combine them and you’ve got a striking work of art in any medium. I’m going to focus on website design in these posts.

Principle #2: Repetition

Repetition is all about creating a sense of consistency in your design.

A strong use of thoughtful repetition can help a viewer attain familiarity with what they’re looking at. Repetition may also apply to music and what we hear. Music relies on repetition to help listeners catch a tune and please their ears. It’s why a chorus tends to be repeated multiple times throughout a song.

The elements of design aren’t limited to what we see. It’s important to consider the senses beyond sight when creating something other people will experience.

Bad repetition is a good way to confuse a viewer and leave them wondering just how they’re supposed to travel through the design they’re looking at.

A simple way to see how repetition helps someone understand what they’re looking at is to think of lists. Bulleted lists, for example, use repeating dots to show a series of items.

  • Bread
  • Milk
  • Cheese

It’s clear we’ve got a shopping list going here. This makes sense and is easy enough to recognize right away. Compare that to this mess:

  • Milk
  1. History

A. Carburetor

I mean, what the heck is that? These are all single, unrelated items. There’s no sense to what’s going on there and it’s nearly impossible to understand at first glance. Or any glance, really. The only thing that’s clear is it’s an attempt at a list.

Good repetition is essential to helping a viewer understand what they’re seeing. It’s confusing and uncomfortable when the eye doesn’t know where it needs to go.

Think of repetition as a trail through dark, scary woods. Good repetition lays out a wide, clear path through the center of the trees. Nothing to worry about there.

Bad repetition gives only a hint of a path that’s mostly covered by rotting mulch and leads a traveler through trees that will catch on skin and next to a pack of hungry, impatient wolves.

Don’t let your viewers get eaten by design wolves.

Repetition examples

Let’s take a look at some examples of good repetition in design. You’ll see, as with contrast, repetition applies to the size, color, and shape of objects.

The creators of these images are taking your hand and leading you through their work in a purposeful way.

I’m going to use some repetition myself and reiterate that good design is about controlling what a viewer sees and making them feel something about what they’re experiencing. It’s used to guide your audience.

Repetition is beneficial to both your audience and yourself.

You’re helping a viewer understand what they’re seeing and how they should interpret what they see. Instead of letting them wander around a work of design, you’re taking their hand and leading them through in the way you intend.

You’re also creating a sense of consistency in your own work. When your work is scattershot and has no easily observable theme, it’s a little off-putting to your audience. When you’re consistent in your work, you give the impression of reliability and thoughtfulness.

Poor repetition appears intentionally hostile. Don’t be that sort of person.

It’s rare that design is accidentally good. So rare that’s it’s not ever worth considering. Good design comes from skill and intention. Those are two qualities that take time to develop, but are essential in any kind of design work. Disregarding them is a sure way to remain insignificant.

Next time, we’re going to add another arrow to our design quiver that’ll help develop your skill. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

Keep working on it, cats. Keep working on it, cats. Keep working on it, cats 😸

On Pinterest? Be sure to pin these images.


Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶

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