Collis Ta’eed, co-founder of Envato, is one of my favorite designers. His designs have a certain quality that you don’t see just anywhere. They’re simplistic, stylish, and unique.
What makes the designs stand out of the crowd? Small touches. Little things that add to the design, and give it a more polished look. They’re fairly easy effects to pull off if you know how.
Anywhere a background of one color meets another, the edge can be softened with a little “bevel” effect.
As you can see, what ends up as a neat edge between two sections is a simple trick involving a dark one-pixel line, and a tiny gradient. If you want to see a lot of this effect in action, visit the Blog Action Day site. If you have a way to zoom in on parts of the screen, try using it to observe how the effect is done. (The ColorZilla extension for Firefox has such a feature.)
What’s not there is often more important as what is. Ample paddings and margins and a bit of spacing between lines of text go a long way to improve a design. Whitespace leaves the user room to breathe as they navigate a site. If you cram everything together, you end up with a mess.
Flat colors will only get you so far. A subtle gradient here or there will liven things up. Be careful of gradients, though, and keep them subtle. If you make the color shift too pronounced, the result will be very tacky.
Can you spot all of the gradients in the image above?
Obviously Collis Ta’eed isn’t the only designer to use these techniques. They’re everywhere. Collis simply uses them well, and often. Keep these techniques in mind, practice them. And have a look at the sites in the Envato network; besides having good design, they have some great content worth trying.