David Airey had a post this morning How important are laws of design?
If you view design as a craft, I feel you have to earn the right to "break the rules".
In short, that means you need to learn the rules and understand why they exist as rules before you can know when it might be a good idea to completely ignore them.
Is design your hobby or your craft?
Crafts are developed over time. In the passage of time best practices and rules are established. Those established standards and best practices are what elevates the activity to the level of a true craft.
For example, in a discussion this morning with my father-in-law who has decades of experience in residential construction a specific scenario of breaking the rules was related. He was asked to review the work of another contractor. He found that the other contractor had failed to follow code in the construction of the roof and that unless it was fixed the structural integrity of the roof would be compromised.
The younger contractor, who probably was unaware of this code beforehand, on the spot decided to break the rule. To save face or to avoid having to fix the problem, he explained that my father-in-law was wrong and everything would be fine.
The code was not followed. The roofing was finished. And upon completion is was immediately visible to the eye that the roof was badly sagging.
Activist or Delinquent?
To put it in another context:
- Gandhi broke the rules
- a kid who throws a rock through your window is breaking the rules.
If you know the design rule, considered the design rule as an option, and have a specific reason why it would be best to break it in a specific project - then that is a purposeful action.
If you don't know the design rule, failed to consider the design rule as an option, don't have a specific reason for breaking the rule, or are using "breaking the rules" as an after-the-fact excuse - then that is a thoughtless act and probably not good design.