I want to discuss some of the key principles of design. When I teach design to school kids I use the acronym CRAP for them to remember, which stand for: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. These terms come from the book The Non Designers Design Book. If you evaluate a design using these terms, you can see how they are almost always present in well designed sites and print.
Contrast – the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. – Source: Wiki
Original theme used at Skelliewag Grid Focus
Skelliewag makes very good use of contrast. The dark text and page elements make them easily distinguishable from the background, and there is also a contrast in size used in the logo where the .org font is much smaller than that rest of the letters.
Repetition – repeat styles down the page for a cohesive feel. Source: Vitamin Features
Among other good design features Mosaiko makes good use of repetition. There is a button section in the side panel where the color of all the logos have been altered to keep the color scheme repetitive. The color scheme is consistent throughout. The article image header shape and size is repeated throughout. Font sizes and design are repeated also. Overall, a very effective site design.
Alignment – Everything on the page needs to be visually connected to something else, nothing should be out of place or distinct from all other design elements. Source: Vitamin Features
A strength in Brian Gardner WordPress themes is that they all seem to have very good alignment. Have a look at his homepage and any of his themes to see good use of alignment.
Proximity – Proximity creates related meaning: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate design elements should have enough space in between to communicate they are different. Source: Vitamin Features
One of the main strengths of John Chow’s new theme is the effective placement of page elements, which gives the site good proximity. The four blocks visible in the screenshot show related objects grouped together effectively.
Evaluating your design work using the CRAP design principles is good way to double-check your work. If you constantly question the details of your design work, good habits will develop.