Designing Digital Scholarship Projects: CAT design principles

Design principles & entry-level tools to begin developing digital scholarship projects
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CAT design principles

Developed at the DesignLab at UW–Madison, the acronym CAT represents three kinds or stages of design work.

  • Conceptual
  • Aesthetic
  • Technical


  • What kind of project are you making? What do you need to know about the particular medium/genre?
    • What is your project about? — What is the main idea, argument, or information you are trying to convey?
    • Who is your audience? — Is it your instructor? Your classmates? A community group? A high school class?
    • What are your goals or purpose? – To convince? To persuade? To inform? To call to action?


  • What is the look or style or vibe of your work?
  • Do the images, graphics, colors, contrast, and structure communicate your ideas and purpose?
  • Are your design decisions consistent and coherent?
    • Or, when your decisions aren't consistent, why aren't they?
  • Do your design decisions connect with your intended audience?
    • Are your decisions meaningful to your intended audience?


  • If you used images — are they clear and properly scaled? (not pixelated, etc.)
  • If you used text — is it written at the appropriate level for the intended audience? Is it legible (both size and font)? Does it contrast with any backgrounds?
  • If you used sound — Is the audio clear and crisp? Are the sound levels balanced? Are the transitions unnoticeable?
  • If you used video — Is the orientation appropriate for the venue/viewing device? Is the picture clear?

Design Lab, "CAT Principles" (University of Wisconsin–Madison):