C.R.A.P.

Too often have I stared at a blank screen, having no idea where to begin a design project. Whether we’re working on a book cover or the interior design of a book’s content, designing can be an overwhelming process that taxes our eyeballs and brain capacity. What has really helped me is C.R.A.P.—because sometimes you just need a good C.R.A.P. to help you move forward into the creative process.

When I took a relatively simple document-design class in PSU’s professional and technical writing program, the concept of C.R.A.P. was introduced to give us students—who had little design experience—a way to wrap our minds around how an audience “should” see content or objects displayed on a canvas or page (granted, there is a bit of a gray area here that we need not get into). C.R.A.P., simply put, is a set of rules that helps solve problems that beginner designers often run into. So let me tell you my thoughts on this C.R.A.P.

C.R.A.P. was coined by Robin Williams in The Non-Designer’s Design Book. The acronym actually stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. So does this relatively simple set of rules actually help? For me, it does. Some might say, “Well, yes, obviously we don’t just throw our work onto a page like a Jackson Pollock and call it good design.” But even Mr. Pollock throws C.R.A.P. into his work to provide order to the complexity. So from the perspective of a beginner designer, C.R.A.P. is the glue of good design. Hold your work together with C.R.A.P.

The cool thing about this C.R.A.P. is how it can be used to a designer’s advantage. Just like in the Jackson Pollock example, the rules can be interpreted in many ways to transform projects into really cool creative pieces. Let’s take contrast as an example. The simplest form of contrast (for me, that is) is black and white, but what about blurry and focused, high definition and pixelated, or simple and complex? On the page, these interpretations of contrast now provide flair and a unique style. Sometimes you don’t know what will come out of your C.R.A.P. until you really open it up. Just know that everybody’s C.R.A.P. is different.

For me, C.R.A.P. has changed the way I look at documents, covers, paintings, and creative works in general. I like seeing others’ C.R.A.P. and appreciate how they use their C.R.A.P. to express themselves. I guess what I am trying to say is that beginner designers are like babies: we use our C.R.A.P. and spread it around to see how it looks. But when we grow into the creative professionals that we want to be, we can make so many different types of C.R.A.P. Thanks for reading this C.R.A.P. post; I hope it helps you make great C.R.A.P. of your own.