Using a Concept in Web Design


In graphic design it’s often useful to use a concept while designing. A concept is an idea that you build your website around. It turns your website into a story. And as you may know, people love stories.

I was reading this book the other day and I was surprised to learn that concepts were important in other fields besides design. Steven Pressfield writes:

“Every work of art, from the Sistine Chapel to the Golden Gate Bridge to the King James Bible, is founded on a concept. A diet should have a concept. An invasion of a foreign country should have a concept. A salad should have a concept.”

I’m not sure about that last example, but you can see what he’s getting at. Concepts are important.

I like to think of the concept as a magnet. It commands every element on the page. Typography, color, style, and copy – they’re all attracted to the magnet and they do as they’re told.

The concept magnet directing design elements on the page
The concept magnet, directing design elements on the page.

The magnet makes all the elements work together to serve a greater purpose.

Think of a themed wedding. When a bride chooses a theme, there are dozens of items that need to work together to support the idea. The invitations, the cake, place settings, dresses, food, and photography – they all work together.

Everything here supports the wedding theme
Everything here supports the wedding’s theme.

If the theme is vintage, everything at the wedding will look old. If the theme is beach themed, there will be plenty of starfish and seashells are strewn about. That’s the concept magnet at work.

Your site design works the same way. But instead of place settings, you’re using typography. And instead of wedding cake, you’re using color.
Look at the ‘Preserve’ screenshot below. I would say the word that best describes the Preserve site is “handmade”.

Preserve Website
Preserve Website.

Consider all of these design elements on the Preserve site:

  • Wooden drawer to save favorites
  • Typewriter font
  • Intimate editorial and lifestyle photography
  • Textured recipe cards
  • Products photographed on textured surfaces

Each of these things supports the idea of “handmade”. And they could only have been chosen those design elements after a concept was decided on. Here’re a couple more examples. See if you can guess the concept before reading the caption.

Si Le Soleil The concept here is the ocean
Si Le Soleil – The concept here is the ocean.

Legwork Studio the concept here is whimsy
Legwork Studio – the concept here is whimsy.

If you’re ever flailing, and your site design is all over the place and your in dire need of some inspiration, it might be because you never picked a concept. Give it a try! You’ll save yourself time in the long run.

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