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24 ways to impress your friends

Circles of Confusion


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I’ve once taken a personality exam, which concluded that my personality type tries to avoid conflict… and that’s a fair conclusion based on what I do with gradients. As a web designer, I try to make gradients as interesting as possible, sometimes with just very subtle nuances. For example, instead of going from color A to Z, I’ll do colors A to B to C to D to Z… and maybe I won’t do the typical 50/50 color ratio either. Sometimes, I’ll mix it up to where 3/5 of the top is one color and the remaining parts are the other colors. With that said, one way I stick closest to the circle is through image sprites. I figure, any website I build will have a least 3-4 images built into a sprite. Since I’m already doing the legwork for that, I just combine my gradient images to that sprite, which might bump it up 3K or so in filesize. Now, with lots of CSS lines, I could come very close to my original gradient image, but it’d require lots of extra time and it wouldn’t work on every single browser version. Anyway, I’ve found image sprites to be a very happy medium to the gradient brouhaha that develops whenever you try to get something signed off.

William Dodson

I love this analogy, Andy. I use a similar method with my own clients to determine the level of support for certain design elements. I use a three-tiered approach as well:

* Crucial
* Nice-To-Have
* Unimportant

Things that are critical to branding or web site goals are considered “crucial” and typically include colors, logo presentation and quite often typography. Things which are considered “nice-to-have” often include gradients, rounded corners and drop shadows. Anything else is considered “unimportant,” but only after careful scrutiny.

It’s very inspiring to see other designers arriving at similar techniques through different means. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas to you and yours.


It was a pleasure reading the article. Circles of Confusion also makes you think about what is key to the visual identity. Nice example of this:


Hello Andy, thanks for impress us. I’m the french CEO of a little startup that creates content websites, earning money only with traffic.

The thing is that we also have circles of confusion in the developpment process. Here is what happened every time : we define the functionnalities that we want to have and start the developpment. But the developpers try to be creative and always give us reviews on new functionnalities that can be implemented.

We lost a lot of money in the past trying to make as many functionnalities as we can. Now, we are trying to make the functionnalities as little as possible and that works pretty fine. That’s your circles ! Thanks !

Al Stevens

Great stuff – and a very sensible approach to coping with the multitude of browsers and devices out there (and Internet Exploder).

Maybe less good (in terms of time saving) if a brand sees rounded corners and gradients as more important than colour and font?

Impress us

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