7 August 2023

Breaking Design Rules: When and How to Innovate

Breaking Design Rules: When and How to Innovate

Breaking Design Rules: When and How to Innovate

Breaking Design Rules: When and How to Innovate

Design rules are established principles that guide the creation of effective and aesthetically pleasing designs. They provide a framework for designers to follow, ensuring consistency and coherence in their work. However, there are times when breaking these rules can lead to innovative and groundbreaking designs. In this article, we will explore when and how to break design rules to foster creativity and push the boundaries of design.

The Importance of Design Rules

Design rules have evolved over time based on research, user feedback, and best practices. They serve as a foundation for designers to create visually appealing and functional designs. These rules help maintain consistency across different design elements, such as layout, typography, color, and spacing. By adhering to design rules, designers can ensure that their work is accessible, intuitive, and user-friendly.

For example, the rule of thirds is a widely recognized design principle that suggests dividing an image into nine equal parts using two horizontal and two vertical lines. The points where these lines intersect are considered visually appealing and can be used to place key elements in a composition. By following this rule, designers can create balanced and harmonious designs.

When to Break Design Rules

While design rules provide a solid foundation, there are situations where breaking them can lead to innovative and unique designs. Here are some scenarios where breaking design rules can be beneficial:

  • Pushing boundaries: Breaking design rules can help push the boundaries of what is considered conventional. By challenging established norms, designers can create fresh and unexpected designs that capture attention and stand out from the crowd.
  • Targeting specific audiences: Design rules are often based on general principles that cater to a wide range of users. However, certain audiences may have different preferences or expectations. By breaking design rules, designers can tailor their work to specific target audiences and create designs that resonate with them.
  • Reflecting brand personality: Design rules may not always align with a brand’s personality or values. Breaking these rules can help designers create designs that accurately reflect the brand’s identity and differentiate it from competitors.

How to Break Design Rules

While breaking design rules can be liberating, it should be done purposefully and with careful consideration. Here are some strategies to effectively break design rules:

  • Understand the rules: Before breaking design rules, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of them. Familiarize yourself with the principles and guidelines that govern design to ensure that your deviations are intentional and well-informed.
  • Identify the purpose: Clearly define the purpose and goals of your design. Understand why you want to break a specific design rule and how it aligns with your objectives. This will help you justify your choices and communicate your intentions effectively.
  • Experiment and iterate: Breaking design rules often involves experimentation. Try different approaches, test them with users, and gather feedback. Iterate on your designs based on the insights gained to refine and improve your innovative solutions.
  • Balance innovation and usability: While breaking design rules can lead to innovative designs, it is essential to maintain usability and accessibility. Ensure that your innovative solutions do not compromise the user experience or make the design confusing or difficult to understand.

Case Studies: Successful Rule-Breaking Designs

Several successful designs have emerged by breaking traditional design rules. Let’s explore a few notable examples:

Apple’s Skeuomorphic Design

In the early days of iOS, Apple’s design philosophy embraced skeuomorphic design, which involved using realistic textures and visual cues to mimic real-world objects. This approach broke the rule of minimalism and flat design that was gaining popularity at the time. Apple’s use of skeuomorphic design elements, such as the leather texture in the Calendar app, created a unique and memorable user experience.

Spotify’s Bold Color Palette

Spotify, a popular music streaming platform, deviated from the traditional muted color palettes often used in the tech industry. Instead, they embraced bold and vibrant colors, breaking the rule of subtle and restrained color schemes. This choice helped Spotify establish a distinct visual identity and differentiate itself from competitors.

Google’s Material Design

Google’s Material Design introduced a new set of design principles that challenged established norms. It combined elements of skeuomorphic design and flat design to create a visually rich and interactive user interface. By breaking the rules of either embracing skeuomorphism or flat design exclusively, Google created a unique design language that has been widely adopted across various platforms.


Design rules provide a solid foundation for creating effective and visually appealing designs. However, there are times when breaking these rules can lead to innovative and groundbreaking designs. By understanding the rules, identifying the purpose, experimenting, and maintaining usability, designers can break design rules purposefully and create designs that push the boundaries of what is considered conventional. Successful examples like Apple, Spotify, and Google demonstrate the power of breaking design rules to create unique and memorable user experiences. So, embrace the opportunity to break design rules and unleash your creativity to drive innovation in the world of design.

Posted in Graphic Design
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