Recently one of the Design Contest team members moved house and during that time, she spent hours sat analysing her furniture; the color schemes in place; and the construction of the walls—among many other nuances. And out of all of this stress, she noticed a world of similarities between what she does to make a living and what she does to make a home. She realised there’s a surprising amount you can learn about graphic design from merely decorating a new house.


  1. Color Really is King: When picking the furniture for a new room, what do you do? You may decide on a style of furniture, or even a specific piece, but ultimately you have to pick the right color. The sum total of all the colors you pick must combine well, otherwise the room will look hectic, out of order, and above all else, unseemly. If you think about it, this is exactly the sort of thing you do in graphic design! When creating a new project, you first decide on the elements you’ll use in the piece. You’ll arrange them in the proper place, and then, once it’s all set, you land right back at color. You roll with a specific color scheme, which acts as the glue between all these various elements. It’s really sort of a cool concept, especially when you stop to think about the fact that color can be the tying element between an entire house, or something as small as a vector logo.
  2. Balance is Second in Command: Back in art school, they used to emphasize a single design element above all else—balance. I don’t know how many times I had a piece rejected because the weight of my elements was not balanced. With that in mind, I had a load of similar problems with my furniture during the move. If you treat a room like a canvas, all of the bits and pieces have to be placed in just the right spot, otherwise the whole thing feels either cramped, too spacious, or just plain not right. Usually, this took a lot of finagling to get right, exactly in the sort of way you monkey around with a design in Photoshop or Illustrator. How many times have you desperately moved bits about a screen, trying to find the perfect spot for them? Furthermore, how many times have you looked at a project you’re working on and felt like an element could be moved elsewhere for better emphasis? It’s a universal construct, but if you can take anything away from this, it should be the idea that balance makes the design every bit as much as it makes the room.
  3. Use a Strong Motif: At the start of the move, I had the mindset of, “I want the place to look modern and chic.” As such, the furniture I bought had a distinctly modern edge, and as I felt reticent to purchase anything else, the pattern continued throughout the whole house. However, I very quickly found myself scraping the barrel looking for “modern” furniture, even though I had plenty of other options to choose from, options that might have better suited my functional needs. In essence, my theme was breaking down, and though it wouldn’t take much effort to go slightly outside of it, I felt like I just couldn’t do it. Now, this is just the sort of lesson you can take back to Photoshop in a heartbeat. When starting a project, be sure to pick a specific and strong motif that will last throughout the whole scope without feeling stretched. Avoid simple and non-specific words like “retro,” “modern,” or “vintage.” Instead, talk about specifics! What inspires you about the design, or what sources will you be drawing from to create it? Give these examples to your client, and listen to their feedback. And above all else, don’t be afraid to add or amend the original concept should something better come along. Be flexible, and the construction will be much easier.
  4. Have Fun!: This is something you talk a lot about here at the blog, because you feel a lot of graphic designers (ourselves included) really struggle with the notion of enjoying your work. You really should take pride in what you do, and just as setting out a room full of furniture is a feat, so is setting up a page layout, or creating a logo. Where possible, try to remind yourself to have fun creating a new set-up. Remember that not many people get to do what you do, and especially not with the skill you possess.