For those who don't know art and don't care to know art, it still helps to know some easy-to-implement, empirically tested design techniques. Especially if you'll be working in a small team one day, where everyone needs to wear multiple hats. Erik Kennedy has posted a primer for just that on his blog, and it contains a lot of great tips.
Caveman picture by Shutterstock
While we've drastically summarised and cut down the tips here, it's well worth going over to the blog and reading the full post. Think of this as a preview. Not only is there a lot more information there, Kennedy has a funny way of putting things.
Light comes from the top! Anything else looks unnatural. And that principle should be applied to even the smallest of objects on your site or app. In fact, especially the smallest of objects on your site or app. From itty bitty buttons to teeny weeny toggles.
Design for black & white first.
This forces you to adhere to principles of simple design before you start making things noisy. As you start adding things one by one, you might find you reach the level of just the right amount of noise before you thought you would...
Double your whitespace
Kennedy gives several examples showing just how much whitespace is used by some popular sites and apps. It clearly would have seemed counterintuitive to the developers, and might seem like it comes at the cost of functionality, but it sure does look a lot better. He even gives the whitespace treatment to forums and Wikipedia, and I'm not sure how I feel about a beautiful but less-packed-with-knowledge encyclopedia, but it does make a point.
Floor Fade picture by Erik Kennedy
Overlaying text on images
While Kennedy notes that putting text directly on an image is technically possible, he recommends giving the photo a bit of treatment beforehand, which also makes it easier to change the format afterwards. Giving it a black or coloured overlay, blurring the image, or putting the text into strategic spots in the image to sort of blend the two are good ideas. He also goes into an interesting method called the Scrim, which seems to involve lighting methods at the point at which the photo was taken.
Following other artists
Kennedy gives a few artists and sites to keep an eye on, because seeing what they do and how they do it is one of the best ways to learn.
Again, that's just a taste -- head over to Kennedy's blog for the full story, and some great tips.