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I'm currently in the process of designing a website, and after spending a few weeks now narrowing down a few combinations of fonts for the site's hero banner, I'm now stuck at the final decision of comparing the two final fonts, which are different in very subtle ways.

I always have been more of an analytical person, and I'm a developer at heart, but my personal reasoning for labouring so much over this decision is that this font will be key to the user's initial impression of the site, and that I therefore can't afford to misjudge it. However, I'm also aware that it's probably not healthy - for me or the client - to be spending so much time making a design decision.

I'm wondering how professional graphic designers deal with making such decisions. Do you ever labour over them, and if so, how do you know when to stop? Is it maybe the case that graphic design is just not a good fit for people who aren't good at making quick decisions?

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    My art teacher gave me a great bit of advice when I asked "How do you become a designer" "Design" she said cryptically. I tried again. "To be a musician you have to play, to be an artist you have to draw, paint or sculpt, to be a designer you have to design. Live it, breath it". She was correct. I said this to my son at 14 when he picked up a guitar. He has played for several hours every day, never had a lesson. He gigged at 15. At 16: bit.ly/32UYeFU He doesn't second guess his fingers. Your indecision is a lack of experience & confidence that's all. It will get easier with each job. – Applefanboy Jul 26 at 8:26
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    ...which is not to say creative influence from John Squire, Pete Townsend & Jimi haven't helped my son along the way. Studying principles, looking at influential designers, and establishing your own design process will clearly help but nothing works better than doing it. Good or bad, own it - my art teacher also told me, "throw nothing away". I carry a notebook with me and noodle in it, at the supermarket, at home watching TV, coming out of the shower. I design a good deal in my head now, certainly font decisions, have much of it down before I start... after 25 years :) – Applefanboy Jul 26 at 8:46
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Picasso was touring an elementary school and viewing the artwork the children had on display. He was amazed at how good it all was.

He asked the teacher...
"What are you teaching these children such that they are all fantastic artists?"

To which, the teacher replied, "I simply know when to take things away from them."



At some point, experience teaches when things are approaching a "singularity". That stage where more changes will simply be more changes requiring more changes all without considerable improvement, or even possibly causing degradation. It is difficult to state when that singularity occurs. However, when I find myself laboring over minute things such as "that square serif or that round serif" rather than simply serif vs sans serif. Or, "10% cyan v 12% cyan"... then that's a good indicator that I'm becoming too vested and making too many minute decision at the moment.

While some of these decisions can absolutely help a project, if I find myself searching for things which I can change in minute ways, I'm too close to a project.

I leave the project for the time being. Walk away... for a day or two.. then return with fresh eyes.

Fresh eyes are a greatly undervalued aspect in design. It's far too easy to get so involved in something that you miss the larger picture. With fresh eyes you are forced, naturally, to view the work in a different perspective from a different "path". With fresh eyes you may find that all those minor things you were up in arms about are all unimportant. A new perspective may also show you things you were missing previously.


It is also important to keep the audience in mind. While some things, like font choices will alter perception, as you posted, the general public typically won't be swayed by two typefaces which are very similar. For example, Helvetica and Arial. Unlike helvetica, I find Arial down right ugly. However, 95% of the public doesn't see any difference between the two. So broad strokes often matter far, far more than detailed strokes. So large choices, i.e. serif v sans serif , are far more important in general than which sans serif*. I'm generalizing, but I'm sure you get the gist. I mean Comic Sans is drastically different than Helvetica :)


With web projects, there's also the "refine later" aspect. There is both a benefit and detriment to how web projects are often deployed. A detriment because they can be ever-changing, never-ending, always present, tasks. Especially for oneself. However, they can be beneficial because one can make changes quickly and test if minor changes are a factor. One can run a site with Helvetica for a month, then switch to Arial to see if it makes any difference. Educated changes are always better than "in my head" changes.


Ultimately there's some discipline which is gained through experience where one learns to stop working because you are merely spinning your wheels at the moment. And even something like a 1-2 hour break from a project will possibly result in a better perspective on what may need alteration, if anything.

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    Thank you! This is a great answer with many brilliant points. With regards to the fresh eyes thing, I considered that but even after breaks of several hours I always seem to come back to the decision with the same eyes that have been looking at it for the last few days/weeks. Maybe I just needed some longer time away from it. – Hashim Jul 22 at 18:20
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    @Hashim it's quite easy to pigeonhole yourself into a consistent train of thought regarding some design decision.I'm absolutely guilty of that. If possible, yes, longer time away will help... more distractions between viewing the project. Other projects if possible. Or even merely the "band aid" choice... where you go with what you have at the moment, knowing it can be changed next week, next month or whenever. Personal projects tend to suffer from all this more because there's rarely a deadline. – Scott Jul 22 at 18:22
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    I rather doubt (and hope!) the children weren’t fascistic artists; I believe a typo somewhere has altered Picasso’s intended fantastic. – KRyan Jul 23 at 2:18
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    @TeleportingGoat it means the teacher knew when the children should stop working on the art because they were only going to keep working because they thought they had to, and inevitably overwork things. – Scott Jul 23 at 15:12
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    Teams can always help.. but are not always possible. – Scott Jul 23 at 15:36
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If I like 2 solutions for the same thing, I will eventually just pick one and move forward. I will rarely consult with the client in a situation like this to avoid generating new ideas. Whatever I've picked, I will know it was good anyway. I step back and look at the same thing again in a few days and make changes if possible.

This is particularly easy in web work, as you can do live edits in the CSS any time and adjust things. The client doesn't always need to be consulted with all the detailing work, some things you just do without asking, the client will either not mind or trusts you enough to not be bothered with everything.

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I have to agree with Scott about the fresh eyes. However, I usually ask a friend or family member for an opinion. They don't know anything about design, and I don't always agree with their opinion, but I find this usually pushes me into making a decision.

If I agree with them I feel good going in that direction, and when I don't, their opinion sort of makes me see that clearly and so I stop second-guessing myself.

Another thing I do is either print out the two examples and put them side by side. Or for web, I just put two versions side by side on the screen. This usually makes the better version stand out.

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Think as a client. Design it like you are the person who needs it and make it better till you feel that it is the best for your need.

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