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One of our favorite people, Andy Rutledge, has just put up a little writing on the basics of contrast in design: “Contrast in Context.” It’s the kind of thing you think “Oh, I know that,” particularly if you’re like this writer who got a silly Engligh degree. But even if you’re the most experienced designer ever, it’s really interesting to see how your brain interprets focus through design in the way that Rutledge has it all laid out. Here’s from the intro:

Context governs all of the whys, hows and whats to visual communication. Just as design is a response to a set of needs or problems, context shapes the design response. Without context there cannot be any real design; only art or decoration (neither of which amounts to design.)

Since all design must be accomplished within some sort of context, defining or understanding the context should likely be the first step in the design effort.