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Good Design Needs Repetition

I’m sorry….can you repeat that?

Pretty much every member of my immediate family has a terrible habit of telling the same stories over and over. It used to be something I saw in my parents; I’d kind of roll my eyes and chuckle as the same stories seemed to come up time and time again. I have to admit, though, that I’ve definitely inherited the repetitive gene. I watch my friends make those same glazed-over expressions I used to make when I launch into one of my “heard-this-one-before” tales, and I take a clue that I might want to cut it short this time as they already know the ending.

While repetition might make for a dull dinner conversation (Yes, Dad, we’ve heard this one a few times); it makes for an awesome design principle. Great design needs repetition. You should repeat some aspects of your design throughout the entire piece. This applies to repeating fonts, a certain type of bullet or graphical element, a shape within your logo that you then carry into the rest of your design, a spacial relationship or interesting layout. Repeating visual elements helps to unify and strengthen a piece. It’s a way to tie together elements that might otherwise stand alone. You might also call the principle of repetition the principle of consistency. Be consistent and you’ll be a better designer.

We also have a great FREE download that’s a Repetition Checklist that you can use for your next design project:

Click on the link below to download it:

 

 

So, let’s look at an example rather than just talking about it. (I feel like I’ve done this before… oh yea! I did in “Good Design Needs Contrast” post – check that one too. Here I go being all repetitive again). When I wrote that post I planned on using the same mock flyer for all of these “great principles of design” posts – there will be four – but it feels too repetitive (yes, that’s possible). Since I’m already bored with that sample design, let’s look at a real design piece we just did for a client/friend/partner and talk about how using intentional repetition applies.

design principle of repetition1. Notice that I’ve chosen to use the same font for all of the headers. They don’t always appear in the same color, but it’s always exactly the same size and same weight. This font we use for headers here is also the identical font we used in the logo that we designed for Mooring Advisory Group (MAG). 

2. The body font, while differing from the header font choice (hello contrast!), is the same throughout the document. Sometimes it’s white and sometimes it’s dark gray depending on the background color and readability factor, but it’s always the exact same size and same weight. And it doesn’t mean we can only choose one body font throughout a document. You’ll notice the testimonial and contact information are the same as each other but different from the other body text. This makes our eyes happy! We like consistency, even when it’s subconscious consistency!

repeating graphical elements3. Several different graphical elements are repeated in this simple one pager that gives it a unified look. First, check out the icons we used to call out the three areas of the “Expertise” section. This graphical feature not only draws your eye into this part of the flyer but it also unites these three areas. We went with a white icon on dusty teal circle all.three.times. Beautiful repetitiveness.

We also use the same “banner” type of background color behind our white headings. This is yet another repeating feature and it unites “Who we are” and “How to contact us.” The repetition gives it nice balance at the top and bottom of the document and also unites these 2 ideas.

Also, look at the sailor’s knot that appears a couple times in this document. When we branded MAG she wanted to call attention to her tie to Hingham/the water/the harbor and we did so in a few ways, one being with this knot appearing in her stylized tagline (see the tagline featured on the top image on the iPad). Even during her initial branding I was thinking ahead when I added this knot element. This could be a cool divider or subtle image used in future pieces… and see? Here it is in action in this one pager. It’s also super subtly in her business card here, in both the tagline and an almost transparent element on the front of the card:

Can you spot the knots?! Consistency in branding is all about being repetitive. 

4. Color choices might be the most obvious way to use repetition in your design. We used the same colors in this flyer as we did in MAG’s original branding. And even beyond the colors of fonts or graphical elements, the image itself pulls in some of the nautical colors from her palette – using a blue wooden backdrop in the image. I could have chosen any iPad image but this one worked with her coloring and the “look and feel,” of her branding. I liked the weather-worn look of this wood. It is consistent with other water-related elements!

5. While color might be super obvious, I think the least intuitive way to be repetitive might be your spacing choices. Be consistent with how you space and place every element of your design. Notice how all the headers have the same spacing underneath them before body text begins. Notice how columns are all perfectly spaced and sized the same. Notice how each graphical piece has the same amount of space between them. These aren’t accidents. They’re decisions that you make during your design that takes something from being amateur to super professional and, you guessed it, repetitive!

Finally, while I hope I’ve shown that repeating elements unites a document and gives it a polished professional look, don’t over do it. Just subtly show your ability to repeat rather than bonking someone over the head with obvious and overdone repetition. It’s about making design decisions that are conscious and purposeful rather than annoying. 

And speaking of annoying, before I wrap this up, did I ever tell you guys the one about… yes? Oh, okay. I won’t repeat myself. Again.

Remember to click on the link below to download our FREE Repetition Checklist!

 

 

Until next time!

Molly

Molly Fabiano

2 thoughts on “Good Design Needs Repetition”

  1. These graphic design tips are awesome! However, they made me realize that I need to hire a professional to create my business cars, websites, logo, and letterhead. I am no graphic designer and reading this article made me realize this is not something I can handle on my own.

    Reply
  2. Couldn’t agree more! When you’re throwing in a bunch of random design elements it really makes your client look unprofessional. Having repetitious design elements helps pull together a graphical narrative – aka BRANDING. You laid it out perfectly, thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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