Visual Design vs Making things “look pretty”

As a Visual Designer who transitioned into an Experience Designer a fair while back, I often overhear a variety of stakeholders or interested people asking

“Can you just make that look pretty please?”

I find this an interesting statement for a number of reasons.

To me it indicates that the person making the request values aesthetics and desires something to be pleasing on the eye. Attractiveness by nature often generates interest on a variety of levels. This may manifest as a longing to have a relationship with something beautiful. Being associated with identifiable and recognisable trends can also offer a degree of perceived value. Perhaps people could even be drawn by a sense of admiration for something beyond the grasp of their daily experiences.

At the end of the day, a request to “make it look pretty” boils down to a lack of understanding of the true role and purpose of a good Visual Designer.

Any Visual Designer can make something look pretty, though the role and purpose of a good Visual Designer is to communicate ideas, thoughts, emotion and most importantly information to the end user.

The good Visual Designer will use hierarchy, scale, contrast, repetition, colour, symmetry, assymetry and so on to help the end user understand the ultimate goal and message they seek.

So why do the stakeholders or interested parties not make the connection that Visual Design is just as much about information than it is aesthetics? I daresay, the finger should not be pointed at the person asking for something which “looks pretty”.

Visual Design is about communicating information, so ultimately, it is the role of the good Visual Designer to help people understand this.