Everywhere Design: Cringe

Being a designer has never been easier. In fact, more people than ever are designing.

Simply consider how laborious design was on an early printing press. I can imagine the painstaking placement of each letter into the press, while knowing full well a mistake would be costly. Imagine carving out by hand images, shapes, and symbols, to help make your words more attractive. It took a great degree of detail, handcraftmanship, practice, and skill to create the simplest of fliers. Even if you felt you had the artistic skill to do the job, you still had to find access to a printing press.

Today, every American has access to a printing press. They come in the form of a computer. Nearly every public library in the country has a computer or two for public use. So that is no longer a barrier.

Also, computers allow the average person to put together documents, presentations, and even blog posts together in a matter of minutes. It’s truly incredible. The days of laboring over printing are long gone.

As mentioned earlier, design has never been easier. If you want to design, you can. Yet, not everyone should.

Amateur Design

I am tired of having to look at bad design done by amateurs. It doesn’t take long to identify professional vs amateur work. It only takes me two seconds.

Business owners, please don’t let me judge your company in two seconds. But I will. Sorry.

In my day job as a web designer, we repeatedly turn unproductive, unprofessional websites into efficient, professional sites, that help our customers be more effective at whatever it is they do.

Design plays an integral part in this. If your site looks professional, is usable, and appears credible than that increases your chances for success in the eyes of the user. Simple? Of course.

So you don’t own a business but you want to throw a party. Most people enjoy a party. This sounds like a case where you may need to send out invitations or put up fliers. So you open up Microsoft Word, select your template and get to work. Chances are your flier will end up looking like this.

Sorry, but I don’t want to go to your party. Your party looks cheap, lame, common, and not fun. I want to go the other party with this poster.

This just shows you don’t need fancy fonts, clip art, or word art to make a cool and, better yet, effective design. The party in poster above seems original and cool, and people will want to attend, and know where to go.

Design Etiquette

Ultimately, then there are two root causes to the issue with my problems with bad design. The first is that most programs tempt amateurs right away with easy to use features such as clip art, word art, and ghastly fonts, when all they should allow you to do is put words on a screen. The second is that amateurs haven’t been taught proper design etiquette.

Imagine golf without etiquette. Greens would be driven over, divots would go unreplaced, and little brother’s would be allowed to walk in front of your line before your putt. It would still be golf, but it would be less civil. Much of the allure of the sport would be lost. Same with design.

Help us designers, help design by following these 4 Simple Rules of Design Etiquette:

  1. No Clip Art: Use an image instead.
  2. No Word Art: I know you want to add pazzazz to your project, but all you really add with this is cheese.
  3. Be Careful with Color: Pink does not make a good text color. And if you have too much color it only distracts. Try a single color for all of your headings, a dark gray for your body text, and a possible third color for links (different from your heading).
  4. Do NOT use the following fonts – EVER: Comic Sans, Papyrus, Jokerman, Marker Felt, and Chiller. I may as call them the fun-wreckers.

If there seems to be a good response to this post, I will definitely try to elaborate in future posts. But I just really want you to become a champion of design etiquette and together we can help make the world not so cringeworthy one design at a time.

4 Responses to Everywhere Design: Cringe

  1. Dan Gilbert

    No comic sans!?!?! I wish I would have read this post 2 weeks ago.

  2. Kyle Collins

    I want to go to the first party. It feels like anything could happen there!

  3. Brandon

    @”Dan Gilbert”: No worries. I read your newsletters front and back. Good content always trumps design. I hope I didn’t sound to haughty. Thanks for reading “Dan”!

    @Kyle Collins: You are right anything could happen at the first party, however I highly suspect poorly planned party games. I’m sticking with the second party, the message is clear.

  4. Bryce

    YO! I enjoy anyone that speaks the truth.. and you have just spoken!

    this is also part of the reason why the “freelance” community has become the sad state of affairs that it is. everyone thinks they can design.

    it reminds me of the movie ratatouille, where gusto says, “anyone can cook.” this much is true, but only the truly gifts can be a chef.

    same applies here. leave the design to the designers. and actually that goes for you “artists” too. just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you are a designer.

    anyways, down with wordart, and keep on rockin the free world!

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