Ready-to-wear or french prêt-à-porter is a term for factory-made clothing that comes with fixed sizing, as opposed to made-to-measure or bespoke clothing. In the visual design world, this is represented by so-called templates. In this blog post, we explore the potential benefits and dangers of using templates.
Design for non-designers?
Presentation tools like PowerPoint or Prezi try to be more accessible to a broader audience by offering the user so-called templates. An audience that does not necessarily know how to make beautiful compositions from scratch but can judge one, when they see it. Templates allow nearly everybody to clothe their information in premade designs, with the option to do minor customizations themselves. These templates define a colour scheme, shape language, typefaces and overall composition.
Templates offer an excellent starting point for inexperienced users because they come with widely accepted graphic design principles. Among these are balance, proximity, alignment, visual hierarchy, contrast, repetition, unity, and typography. Some of these principles are rooted deeply in our biological evolution, especially hierarchy and contrast. Others are more attributed to our cultural development. So what templates do is that they please a purely aesthetic need. But beauty itself, as we know, is often in the eye of the beholder.
Design != Design
When we are going to buy new clothes, two main factors influence our shopping behaviour. First, internal needs, like whether they feel comfortable or reflect our personality, and second, external factors, like whether they are appropriate for the occasion. So clothes are typically a means to an end, a tool to help us achieve the desired future goal.
Working for a large company, we frequently have to make decisions for other people. When we have to choose a unifying clothing style, we cannot base the decision on personal taste but instead, have to please the companies overarching aims. What are these aims or goals?
When we think like a traditional designer, we start making even the tiniest decisions with the big idea in mind. We think about the potential effects of each element in the composition and the transitions between them. What typeface might best evoke the desired feeling, and how does it play together with the surrounding elements? Making these elaborate thoughts on everything does not mean that we definitely reach our goals. But chances increase dramatically than when we would simply roll dice.
Are you ready to measure?
With this mindset, we begin to see templates as a starting-off point. They should inspire us to go in a particular direction, but not make us too rigid in our decision-making. When we feel one aspect of the template does not bring the desired effect, we should look for alternatives. That could also mean taking different elements from various templates and weaving them together in a bespoke design.
Do not squeeze your project into a fixed template, but adapt the template to your project’s needs.
Presentation tools target a broader audience by providing numerous easy-to-use templates. Instead of requiring the user to start with a blank canvas, one can choose a premade visual design to get a beautiful result. These templates ensure a general aesthetic quality since they are mostly in line with widely accepted graphic design principles. However, they yield a potential danger by blurring the real aspect of design – form follows function. When we adopt the perspective of a traditional designer, we start making decisions not solely based on taste, but rather on whether the elements are causing the desired effect. With this awareness, templates become more like inspiration, to further sculpt them according to the project’s requirements.