Pretty versus practical: Rhetorical choice in graphic design

in my past experience with graphic design, I’ve always seen it as stylizing something until it’s pretty, punchy, or polarizing.  With political intent or creative drive, I’ve always seen graphic design as the icing on the cake of a project, but having read Dabner, and reflected on my own blogging experience, I’ve reevaluated what graphic design might be about.

Practicality is a large part of online graphic design (specifically this because I have experience, rather than print media).  If something looks nice, but has no easy interface or practical application, it’s not a good applied graphic design, even if it’s attractive to the eye.

As examples, I am using different blog templates for blog themes from


(“Royal Ribbon” by user wakecodesleep)

This blog template has many attractive features and follows many of the layout and colour principles of CRAP, but at the same time is difficult to navigate.  There is no “home” or navigation portal, only the most current posts, and the latter ones that the reader must scroll down to.


(“Vacant” by user samstephan)

On the other hand, too much practicality can lead to a bland layout that won’t stay with your audience.  Of course, it is always up to the context of what the layout is for.  For some, this minimalism is much more effective, therefore your mileage may vary.


(“GreyMatters” by user ligertest)

The third example is something that I thought was a possible centre option – the design incorporates aesthetic elements that have both function and form, are both pleasing and practical.

I believe that in the end, there is a situation for every theme or layout, and vice versa.  The degree of graphics vs. functionality is a fine line that depends entirely on the scenario, and in fact that very reason is why these principles of CRAP, colour, etc. are so vital to understand.