“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

—Pablo Picasso

The rules of visual communication should lay a strong foundation for delivering high-quality visual content for your audiences. By understanding and applying each rule, you'll find it easier to consider the subconscious effects that different design choices will have on those viewing the content.

But it is rare that every rule can be perfectly executed in every piece of content you produce, because different factors may force you to prioritize some rules over others, or even break a rule entirely. This is OK, provided that bending or breaking a rule will help you better represent the information or achieve your goals with more efficiency.

Some rules are easier to bend or break than others. For example, rule 2 (small visual cues have a large impact) and rule 7 (use proper data viz throughout) are two that I would suggest you always follow. Even in satire, breaking these rules can do more harm than good. Additionally, a rule should never be ignored simply because it's too hard to follow. Instead, each rule should be weighed in the context of the goals of the project, the information being delivered, the ways in which an audience will view the content, and the target audience. To exemplify this, here are projects from my team at Killer Visual Strategies in which we bent or broke some of the rules outlined in this book.


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