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Designing better experiences by understanding how we see the world.

Close up of a human eye looking upwards.
Close up of a human eye looking upwards.
Photo by Perchek Industrie on Unsplash

In this article, we’re going to explore the concept of contrast and its fundamental role in UX and visual design.

Let’s start by defining what contrast is.

The definition of contrast

Contrast is the quality of two juxtaposed elements to be different from one another.

Contrast determines the way our senses perceive our surroundings and the properties of the objects we interact with. In the words of author Dan M. Mrejeru:

Based on contrast, perception distinguishes signal from noise and foreground from background. — Solovki’s Ersatz: On the Evolution of Modern Human Brain explains:

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

We perceive variations in microtonalities in music as fluctuations of the same note, also known as vibrato. However, we interpret broad, symmetrical differences in the frequencies of subsequent notes as musical. Conversely, asymmetric frequencies are considered dissonant. …


You should be paying for business outcomes instead.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The value of design can’t be quantified in hours.

Unlike mowing your lawn or your Netflix subscription, the value that design creates is challenging to see immediately, let alone quantify, but if done right, design can have a profound impact on the success of your business.

Time ≠ value

Instead of measuring its value (output), the tech industry has relied on estimating the cost of design in terms of time (input) for decades. E.g., how many hours did I pay my wife’s cousin, Josh, for redesigning my marketing website? It doesn’t even look that great.

A good developer can spend 6 months coding and end up something worth either ten million dollars or absolute zero. …


It’s a robust design practice that reflects human perception.

A image that displays the word “minimalism” as a trademark.
A image that displays the word “minimalism” as a trademark.

When minimalism works, it is always a result of a well-executed design process. It also allows people to seamlessly interact with the product or service, helping them achieve a specific task.

Disclaimer: I typically use the word product to refer to products or/and services. A service is a product.

What makes a product useful?

The products that we interact with daily have a purpose. They wouldn’t be around if they didn’t. E.g., a car helps you go places quickly, a phone helps you communicate through the internet, and a jacket keeps you warm.

Of course, some products are better at fulfilling their purpose than others.

Invariably the most useful products are the ones that allow us to use them more effectively. …

About

Ed Orozco

Design Strategy & UX Consultant. Head of Strategy at WANDR. Inspiring companies to build better products — edorozco.com

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