Every graphic designer and artist, regardless of medium or discipline, wants to buck convention. It’s a thing to be avoided at all costs. A dirty word. I myself avoid it like the plague. Because I, like so many, subscribe to the common wisdom (which so often proves unwise) that conventional design looks like everything else out there. And to a certain extent, that’s entirely true. But is it really a bugaboo to be avoided, or another tool to be used judiciously?
Taking examples from a number of different disciplines: Web sites are constantly being re-designed, presumably to make them better. Why is navigation so consistent among so many different sites? Because that’s where people, for better or for worse, have been trained to look. Look at guitars. Fenders, Gibsons, Paul Reed Smiths… Strings, pickups, and controls are in the same place, no matter how different the luthiers carve their bodies. Even firearms: the M16 has become so ubiquitous since Vietnam that virtually every modern assault rifle designed to replace it keeps the fire selection and safety mechanisms in exactly the same place.
In other words, convention, in moderation, can only improve usability, an ever-increasing concern for all designers.