Join 3,563 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

The Design Disease
February 18, 2007 8:30 PM   Subscribe

The Design Disease "People with the disease will always choose books by their covers."
posted by dhruva (91 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
If good design is a sickness, then let me die of it.
posted by ColdChef at 8:37 PM on February 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Please tell me that Four Emus wine is really, really good.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:38 PM on February 18, 2007


hear hear coldchef
posted by infini at 8:40 PM on February 18, 2007


thanks for the link, dhruva
posted by infini at 8:40 PM on February 18, 2007


I started picking wine by the design of the label (since i know nothing about wine) and so far, there's been a pretty decent correlation between the label and the wine. If I see Four Emus, I'll try it out :)
posted by dhruva at 8:41 PM on February 18, 2007


Glad I'm not alone. I walk into a space, I look at the signs and study the layout and type design. It's gotten worse since I moved to NYC, because there's JUST SO MUCH TYPE and OH GOD THERE'S HELVETICA AGAIN 14TH STREET STATION.

Awesome post.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:50 PM on February 18, 2007


If the publishers couldn't afford a decent cover design, the book probably isn't worth reading. And the same with all other products.
posted by Xere at 8:52 PM on February 18, 2007


Morons pick wine by the label. There, I said it.
posted by phaedon at 8:52 PM on February 18, 2007


I think the more heinous thing about the "Ferrari" sign is how it seems as if it once said "Ground Floor Offices TOILET."
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:55 PM on February 18, 2007


Great!
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 9:01 PM on February 18, 2007


Most of this is about typography, and I have that particular disease in spades. So does anyone else who wants this.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:07 PM on February 18, 2007


I own three vintage Hoover vacuums because of the dashing "H" in the logo.
Guinness brown is the most comforting color on a cold day I've ever seen.
I almost, but not quite, gave up Velveeta when they went all swooshy in their font about 7 yeas ago.
I've got it, and I've got it bad.
posted by Dizzy at 9:07 PM on February 18, 2007


Wine with an overdesigned label is trying to hide some other shortcoming. Winemakers who are confident in their product don't have to dress up their labels.
posted by gimonca at 9:08 PM on February 18, 2007


I think there's a good correlation between good design and the brands that can afford it. Not the quality of the product. Hell, I don't think it, I know it. I've worked on a number of wine accounts and worked several wine label - ENOUGH WITH THE GOLD FOIL ALREADY - projects.

Look, as an agency producer, I'm glad that people care about the work, but I must admit I am entirely cynical about people who "love" graphic design or "love" branding or are passionate about this stuff. It's sales, for god's sake. We're selling stuff. Shoes, wine, hammers, whatever. If you pay, we will help sell it. Not if it's good or bad, if you'll pay the bill. If the client can only afford 6 hours of a designer's time, that's generally all they'll get, regardless of how in love the designer is with typography.

I pretty much ignore design when making buying decisions (natural exceptions for clothes and fabrics and such). In fact, when I see something meticulously designed, it's hit the point where I won't buy it. Just because I can't stand it anymore. I just want what I buy to work, dammit. I don't care if it, or the packaging, is pretty.

And yes, street sign typography is on the whole, shit.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:08 PM on February 18, 2007 [6 favorites]


Also, I like commas.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:10 PM on February 18, 2007


Me, too.
posted by IronLizard at 9:15 PM on February 18, 2007


I very literally walked out of a dentist's office once because I couldn't take the color scheme of the waiting room.

I'm sick... sick, I say!

posted by miss lynnster at 9:24 PM on February 18, 2007


I bought a used Motobecane bicycle once because I liked the font on the logo. I've refused to buy books because of ugly covers or, more pressingly, bad text setting inside.

My name is zadcat, and I'm a typographer.
posted by zadcat at 9:24 PM on February 18, 2007


I formed a favorable impression of Countrywide just from their oh-so-cute corporate logo.

Several months of bubble blog reading disabused me of that opinion.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:24 PM on February 18, 2007


This reminds me of the afflictions of a couple different William Gibson heroes -- Cayce in Pattern Recognition and Laney in Idoru. It's not that they have the same "disease" (though there's a case to be made that they're all akin to each other) but more that a kind of pathological weakness is (purportedly) an attribute of a specialized talent or deeply learned skill.
posted by grobstein at 9:31 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


here, NYC subway signage by Massimo Vignelli

Hugh McLeod's work on wine labels - no gold foil, you'll note

If something is truly well designed, you wouldn't even know it - its called "super normal" - in fact, right now in Toronto there's a show of 100 best Japanese designs, including the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.

I could go on and on :) but have other outlets for this disease.
posted by infini at 9:33 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Matt Oneiros: That "TO LET" thing is a Britishism, and yes, it's jarring, but you get used to it after a while.

Thanks for the link. The comments there are good, too.

What's remarkable is that there are people who are entirely oblivious to their designed environment. Who - even when you point this stuff out - still don't see it.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:41 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Some of his collections are slightly crazy looking, but not in that, "I have nine million pezz dispensers and I've covered every inch of my home with them," kind of way.

I think many professions cause their practitioners to engage reality in odd ways. I know some economists who can't buy a cup of coffee without obsessing over opportunity costs, price elasticity, and cost-benefit. Having studied some law I get the sense that lawyers engage the world in terms of liability and legalese.

Also, I thought this was pretty chilling.
posted by wfrgms at 9:45 PM on February 18, 2007


What a stupid idea.
posted by davy at 9:50 PM on February 18, 2007


Gah, "Wooo! We're designers! We're the winners! We're all very special snowflakes! Nyah-Nyah BooBoo! We see the world better than everyone else!"

This self-congratulatory pap needs to stop. Anytime you guys (specifically: designers) see solid shapes of color and sans-serif fonts you all start running around with your hands in the air and blowing sunshine up one anothers skirts. But, god forbid, if some highway worker puts the Y in York too far away, you all come screeching in for the kill.

I mean, have you no shame? You're glorified telemarketers for chrissakes. This is no different than navel gazing.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 10:06 PM on February 18, 2007 [9 favorites]


My Design Diseases:

Countrywide's logo from 20 years ago helped inspire me to apply for a job there.

Ever since the Cold War, I've felt nervous about being inside a building with the Target Logo.

Two of my favorite colors are Huckleberry Hound Blue and Jinks the Cat Orange.

I turn up my nose at blogs with non-fluid columns.

I have a weakness for the sickeningly-sweet (to most people) Cherry Coca-Cola, but I gave it up when the can design changed to something very different from Coca Cola Classic. Now that it resembles Regular Coke again, I'm hooked again.

I have dreamed of starting a company named "DY Computers" and using the HP logo upside down as its trademark.

I have long been obsessed with the Bookman font (mostly for the italic with the big 'swash' on the lower-case W). I have totally way too many fonts on my computer, including a wide collection of fonts from TV logos (yes, all the Star Trek fonts, Klingon included), twenty-some comic strip fonts, and several variations of Uncial, the font used by the city of San Luis Obispo on its street signs. And I once e-mailed a blogger solely to ask her what the font on her logo was.

I have a big striped comforter with dimensions that are almost perfectly square, but I don't cover myself with it unless it is aligned with the stripes going head-to-foot. (Vertical stripes are slimming, right? I want to lose weight in my sleep).

And I curse Kraft every time I go down the dressings aisle for putting their Mayo in the cool-looking squared-off plastic jars but NOT my spread-of-choice, Miracle Whip.
posted by wendell at 10:07 PM on February 18, 2007


I once really believed Asia was the best band in the world, right up until I heard them.
posted by dong_resin at 10:13 PM on February 18, 2007


Learning design really is a bit like giving yourself OCD intentionally.
posted by Richard Daly at 10:39 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


In a similar vein, I used to be a big fan of KMFDM, until I realized I was just a fan of their record covers.
posted by furiousthought at 10:43 PM on February 18, 2007


I once really believed Asia was the best band in the world, right up until I heard them.

Ha!

but they are the best band in the world
posted by mazola at 10:58 PM on February 18, 2007


"People with the disease will always choose books by their covers."

And their computers based on the case plastic. That's why they use Macs.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Steven C. Den Beste: Exactly.

I never understood "design". It's like art's sellout cousin with the hipster glasses.
posted by phrontist at 11:08 PM on February 18, 2007


And their computers based on the case plastic. That's why they use Macs.

The plastics (qua design language) have nothing to do it with, pal.

My case needs are:

1) slience
2) convenience
3) reliability

My mac purchases over the years:

1989: IIcx
1996: Powermac 7500
1999: B&W G3
2002: PBG4
2006: Mac Pro, 20" AIO iMac, MacBook

were hands-down superior to the wintel alternatives of the time. Why the wintel OEMs suck so, God knows.

I have also built myself 2 DIY boxes in the past 5 years, but outside of SLI (which I do not need) I cannot build a better value at newegg than by dual 5150 Mac Pro.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:30 PM on February 18, 2007


Salmonberry, I think those that are most passionate about design see it as art. Anyone who's been through a good art school or works in good design can understand this. It's the same with food. You can eat that gruel from The Matrix or you can eat hand-massaged, drunken Kobe beef... like from The Matrix (please, nothing about how the steak wasn't real. Cifaretto turned Judas for a good reason.)

And this is to Jeff_Larson and Salmonberry: You guys don't wear polka-dotted pants.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 11:49 PM on February 18, 2007


Caring about fonts and design makes us "glorified telemarketers"? Yippee - next time someone asks me to do something creative involving software, original artwork and a concept that's never been seen before I'll just remind them that apparently I just ask questions and use a phone all day. Nice attitude there buddy. I'm all for being cynical, but being bitter and bitchy does not ever translate to cool, does it?
posted by rmm at 11:56 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I try to limit myself solely to products using Comic Sans. It's easy in the breakfast food aisle, but I have more trouble when trying to find wines or prophylactics that meet up to this exacting specification.
posted by drezdn at 12:01 AM on February 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


And their computers based on the case plastic. That's why they use Macs

That took much longer than I expected; I figured the mac derision would begin within the first ten comments.
posted by flaterik at 12:15 AM on February 19, 2007


'Design' is a funny sort of word, particularly on the internet - it's a catchall generalist term that doesn't really mean a whole lot. The article is dealing more with graphic arts and typography which do tend to straddle that grey area of art/advertising. I dont care tooooo much about type but I love unusual or interesting or smart or eyecatching graphics whether on a bookcover or a poster or print advert. It's just personal aesthetics, for the lay person anyway. I can understand how the OCD element creeps over from a job though. But you people need a beige 12-step program.
posted by peacay at 12:22 AM on February 19, 2007


Jeff_Larson:

I see where you're coming from, but I don't think it's as negative as all that. Imagine being an engineer, and laughing with your buddies about how you start to think about the world in terms of, say, physics equations. Yeah, it's a little less interesting to those who don't share your passion, but it's less self-congratulation than some people having fun relating their experiences with a shared craft.

I think it was a cool post, although I will say that wines with flashy logos are almost uniformly unable to be trusted.
posted by invitapriore at 1:16 AM on February 19, 2007


I'm a designer, and while I appreciate great design (and hopefully add some beauty to the world), I don't like overly designed products or media. Just as I hate books by writers where the protagonist is a writer (fap fap fap) I don't like design for design's sake.

I did when I was younger. Get off my damn lawn.

P.S. I love furniture. That love does not mix with also enjoying the company of hounds or a spouse without an appreciation for it. When you see a Dwell spread with the golden lab lying in the middle of a perfect room--that's a loaner dog. My interesting and cool furniture is soaked in drool, scratched, ripped, and matted with hair.

P.P.S. Design is a craft, not an art, though there are artisans working within the craft.
posted by maxwelton at 1:24 AM on February 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


"books by writers?" As opposed to who? I'm losing my mind.
posted by maxwelton at 1:25 AM on February 19, 2007


Peacay: yes, design is like one of those forever debated over the meaning words kinda like love ;p but seriously, while the site linked by Dhruva was indeed very typography based, one celebrates the "disease" in all its forms. What many refer to above are the those who suffer from the terminal disease of wanting to be a "design rockstar" - Karim Rashid comes to mind as an exemplar of this category. imho, from a couple of decades of observation, its the men in the graphic arts who often display some of the worst excesses of the trade.

now, design encompasses such a broad range of work, but those of us who do feel passionately about good design, or at least speaking for myself alone, see "design" as an intangible concept or idea first - that is, one just didn't throw this chair together with four bricks and a plank, one took a moment or more to think about who would use it, why and where etc and then you get stuff like the Aeron chair or an Eames lounge. Tangible or intangible, imho, design is no more than the visible manifestation of the beauty you see in your mind's eye, your value system in a sense you could say.

And I won't go on cos this is not the arena to pontificate on design but I must add a comment to the agency producer - the majority of the design in agencies is commercial art, its purpose is indeed to sell a product or push a widget, no more, no less and under budget and on time. Having been an AE at McCann and design studios, I have been there and had it with snotty creative types however, the topic of this thread, the FPP et al is on observing the world around you and noticing when things fit just right or feel good or work well. Or are just plain fun :)
posted by infini at 1:29 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would have never, ever have chosen that wine. I share a part of the illustrated design disease, so I know it's an inclination that's hard to resist. But with wine the disease gets overruled by the single most important lesson I learned in high school. It was uttered during the first lesson on a Monday morning, by the reverend during religious class. He looked pale and sweaty, obviously wearing the same clothes as the day before. After five minutes of gazing at nothing in particular he said: "Never drink wine that comes from a bottle with a screw cap."
posted by ouke at 3:22 AM on February 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


I wish this goddamn disease could get me a fucking job.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 3:43 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was drawing cartoons in second grade, progressed to designing cars, and later typefaces, always in pen on ruled paper. After a uncertain year in college I got my act together -- somewhat -- by entering design school. After a few more uncertain years I established that even if I have the appreciation and the aesthetic, I haven't got the talent. Dammit.

So now I fell back to my other avocation -- geekery -- and work behind the scenes, writing web apps and consulting on technology, and my scripts have the neatest formatting you'll ever freaking see.
posted by ardgedee at 5:08 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


It makes me think of Billy Crystal's Fernando character from SNL years ago. Because, you know, it is better to look good than to feel good, my dahlings.
posted by gimonca at 5:25 AM on February 19, 2007


OK, edumacate me here people. The point of design is to make stuff look good, right? Therefore, shouldn't an ordinary slob such as myself be able to discern a difference between "good" and "bad" design? Maybe not at first glance, sure. But after looking closely, shouldn't I be able to say, "Yep - didn't notice it before but that which is Designed is better than that which is not"?

But really - for the most part I just don't see it. The difference between good and bad design seems to rest on knowing some sort of mysterious code. Once you know the code, you can tell "good" from "bad," but this is not how I ordinarily use the words "good" and "bad."
posted by selfmedicating at 6:04 AM on February 19, 2007


Anybody who thinks "design" is just about things look doesn't actually know what they're talking about.
posted by i_cola at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


It kind of reminds me of Am I Hip-Hop or Not? And yes, I am the sort of person who looks at modern art and says, "My 4 yr old could have done this."
posted by selfmedicating at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2007


I never understood "design". It's like art's sellout cousin with the hipster glasses.

This sort of attitude is part and parcel of the pervasive anti-intellectualism that grips this land.

Design - let's get this straight for once and for all - is a problem-solving discipline. It's not a channel for self-expression. It is a domain where details matter disproportionally. Some people are attuned to these details, others relatively blind to them.

Stop wearing your blindness as a badge of honor. I'd never hold it against you (unless, that is, you're being paid to work as a designer), but stop being so goddamn proud of your inability to discern meaningful distinctions. It's unbecoming, it generally leads to equally sloppy thinking, and it makes you look like a roob.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:08 AM on February 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


"...the topic of this thread, the FPP et al is on observing the world around you and noticing when things fit just right or feel good or work well. Or are just plain fun..."

No sir, the topic of this thread is self congratulation for being a designer; the post's main conceit is that designer's everywhere are cute and see the world through different thick-rimmed glasses, like some sort of universal Amelie. Look, what I'm saying is that I'm anti the cult of the designer as a unique entity. You push pixels on a desktop all day.

This sort of attitude is part and parcel of the pervasive anti-intellectualism that grips this land.

Ha! Really? Is this how far post-modernism has penetrated? Well, I guess I'll stop reading Kierkagaard now and go and stare at my cereal boxes to divine how thoroughly the red conflicts with the negative white space, and how the whole thing really is a hidden metaphor for human starvation. Or maybe I'll just admire my feet for a while.

When I run into this kind of enforced non-debate it makes me wonder if we're not just better handing off the product cycle entirely to the engineers again. At least then I'd have a drill that never ran out of batteries. Or an Ipod that was built like a tank, and didn't scratch when I looked at it. Or perhaps I could read a magazine again.... And, I wouldn't have to deal with prima donna designer's soapboxing how artistic and creative their derivative and boring creations are.

I love my polka dotted pants.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 6:50 AM on February 19, 2007


It's unbecoming, it generally leads to equally sloppy thinking, and it makes you look like a roob.

That's rube, damn it.
posted by IronLizard at 6:52 AM on February 19, 2007


Design is a problem-solving discipline.

So far, it seems the only problem being solved is that some people don't have enough to feel smug about.

Seriously, if anyone wants to explain to the roobs among us why design is cool, we're all ears. I did ask an actual question a couple comments up - what is the difference between good and bad design, and if I can't see the difference, is it really a difference at all (or is it just a bunch of insiders congratulating themselves on all knowing the same secret)?
posted by selfmedicating at 7:03 AM on February 19, 2007


See apple fans.
posted by jeblis at 7:09 AM on February 19, 2007


Design - let's get this straight for once and for all - is a problem-solving discipline. It's not a channel for self-expression. It is a domain where details matter disproportionally.

I agree with this wholeheartedly, although I'd add that it's a largely iterative discipline.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 7:10 AM on February 19, 2007


A little story of revenge on "design."

In college, people sometimes have big parties and put up flyers for them. Whatever font looks good at the time, center it, put in a picture from a previous party, and there you go. At one point, the discussion came up about how the art kids who leaned toward "design" probably wouldn't approve of the typography, the layout, the printing, the paper, and so on, whereas to us it's just an informational thing.

Solution: don't bother putting up posters in their building, as no one needs them at the party anyway.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:19 AM on February 19, 2007


The point of design is to make stuff look good, right?

The point of design is to make stuff look good to other designers.
posted by gimonca at 7:38 AM on February 19, 2007


But I'm not a designer-- I am a consumer and I am constantly being told by my partner "Put that back, you only want it for the label." I can waste big chunks of time in the ABC store lusting after the packaging. I only care mildly about the contents, I just love liquor bottles. The frosted glass! The colors! The shapes! Ooooo. Pretty. Shiney.

Also, I want these books.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:58 AM on February 19, 2007


what is the difference between good and bad design, and if I can't see the difference, is it really a difference at all (or is it just a bunch of insiders congratulating themselves on all knowing the same secret)?

Well, there's some fetishism that happens when you take the tried-and-true techniques that have worked in the past and take them in a new direction. Brave new applications of grid theory and Helvetica will probably make graphic designers twinge, no matter what the actual target audience will think.

Good design is about understanding a task and designing something to fill that spot. That means conveying information effectively, balancing ease of use with functionality, and somehow remaining aesthetically pleasing. If it looks good to other designers, in a perfect world that means that their shared knowledge of how people visually and tactilely interact with design tells them that it's an object that will succeed. Designers can be wrong, though -- check my earlier comment about fetishism.
posted by mikeh at 8:11 AM on February 19, 2007


Good design is about understanding a task and designing something to fill that spot.

Didn't Jane Gooddall observe this in chimpanzees?
posted by gimonca at 8:51 AM on February 19, 2007


See apple fans.

LOL APPLE SUX CUZ THEY HAVE A DESIGN TEAM AM I RITE
posted by Mikey-San at 8:54 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The difference between good design and bad design comes down to how well a given product of design satisfies the (articulated, unarticulated, and even unimagined) needs of its target audience.

Excellent design does these things so well that it is commonly understood as the primary factor in the commercial success of the product in question, e.g. the iPod. (Be careful, though: transcendently good design may disappear altogether.)

Beyond certain limits, these are not subjective calls. The realm of pure subjectivity you're thinking of, and the threshold that distinguishes between target audiences, is style, the manipulation of form to achieve aesthetic ends.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:56 AM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can't... resist...

I know designers who will walk out of a room because the colour upsets them.

I want to know what colour that is.
posted by motty at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your favorite color.
posted by ardgedee at 11:04 AM on February 19, 2007


I want to know what colour that is.

Is it Mefi blue?
posted by jeblis at 11:24 AM on February 19, 2007


LOL APPLE SUX CUZ THEY HAVE A DESIGN TEAM AM I RITE

Don't confuse that with a statement about apple products. Apple stuff is ok. Some good, some bad. I was referring to the "apple can do no wrong" fans.
posted by jeblis at 11:27 AM on February 19, 2007


What a lot of strange conceptions people have about the word "design", including self-described "designers".
anyone who considers functionality and aesthetics in a given situation is "designing". The success of balancing those sometimes opposing forces indicates whether or not the design is good. Anyone who arranges furniture in a room while considering how the room looks, as well as if everyone can see the TV and that there is an unobstructed path to the kitchen is designing. Arranging food on a plate so that it looks appetizing is designing. People who claim that design is some artsy-fartsy concept that doesn't apply to them are playing directly into the hands of those that seek to somehow elevate themselves from the masses by declaring themselves "designers", and neither group really gets it. Every laptop is designed, Mac or otherwise. Every arrangement of plants on a porch, papers on a newsstand, garage sale sign on a lamppost; all are put together with a function and aesthetic in mind, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Real design is a problem-solving discipline that everybody engages in, and is engaged by, on a daily basis. I actually think this point is made by the images in the linked post, however the tone of the writing is a bit crazy designers vs. rest of the world, although in a fairly amusing, self deprecating way.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:42 AM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't have to deal with prima donna designer's soapboxing how artistic and creative their derivative and boring creations are.

I call strawman. I frankly doubt that you've ever had any actual encounter of this sort.

On top of that, "derivative" and superficially "boring" design can be the wisest choice in a mature ecosystem, and a designer who has the personal confidence, charisma or gravitas to press forward on behalf of such a design in the face of competition from a flashy and ostensibly "novel" alternative is worth his or her weight in weapons-grade gold.

What you think of as soapboxing - to the degree that you've actually experienced any such thing at all - may well be a principled struggle for sound practice, in the context of misguided, naive or foolish client choices.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2007


may well be a principled struggle for sound practice, in the context of misguided, naive or foolish client choices.

Or it could just be a designer disappearing up their own posterior fundement. I am fully aware of design and how designers can add value, but you have to keep them on a fairly tight leash or their goatee'd, cappuchino-inflamed egos can do serious damage - unless your target market is other designers.

While I don't 'love' design, it did sleep with a designer once, which is practically the same thing. And what do you know? She had a disease. Thankfully psoriasis isn't contagious - you just had to sweep the bed out a lot.
posted by Sparx at 12:36 PM on February 19, 2007


Just to clarify a point or two in my badly written paragraph: I don't mean to imply that everyone who calls themselves a designer is trying to elevate themselves; designers worthy of the title have better things to worry about than pretentious bullshit. My experience with design projects has led me to believe that the more people understand design, the higher demand there is for really good designers. Unfortunately, as in all fields, there are a number of practitioners who believe that declaring some mystical designer juju mythology is the best way to elevate their field (and themselves).
posted by oneirodynia at 12:37 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Adam, you're setting out to prove my point I think. When you say "What you think of as soapboxing - to the degree that you've actually experienced any such thing at all - may well be a principled struggle for sound practice, in the context of misguided, naive or foolish client choices." what really comes across is the shot-across-the-bow argument that all client's are somehow "misguided, naive or foolish" which is exactly the attitude that I'm revolting against in the first place.

It's this attitude that gives rise to the cult-of-the-designer, because it empowers the designer to end any and all input on the basis that he is some sort of aesthetic demigod, and I'd say gives rise to this self-congratulatory narcissism. (I also find it interesting that you proclaim my lack of knowledge without any shred of evidence, this must come as second nature by now, its part of the job description, no?)

I think that you think that I'm anti-design (which in our modern world is largely foolish), but really I just think that all this namby-pamby "special-snowflake" nonsense has to stop.

You can't call "straw man" if you don't understand what I'm arguing against, but I give you all permission to call ad hominem.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 12:55 PM on February 19, 2007


(also, I don't know why I seem to want to make everything possessive today. I'll try to stop.)
posted by Jeff_Larson at 1:07 PM on February 19, 2007


After five minutes of gazing at nothing in particular he said: "Never drink wine that comes from a bottle with a screw cap."

My (rather limited) understanding is that screw caps are used on wines where the use of a cork will negatively affect the taste of the wine, which I imagine is more important in the end than the method used to close the bottle.
posted by sparkletone at 1:31 PM on February 19, 2007


"goatee'd, cappuchino-inflamed egos "

And it was at that point that he disqualified himself from the debate with his very own ignorant schtick.

Nice use of the sort of cliche that would make a housewife from Des Moines cringe though.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2007


My (rather limited) understanding is that screw caps are used on wines where the use of a cork will negatively affect the taste of the wine, which I imagine is more important in the end than the method used to close the bottle.

THis is only relatively recently true (in my also rather limited understanding). Before, screw caps were pretty universally associated with cheap, often fortified wines. Even now, rather than a screwcap on a "quality wine" you're more likely to find an artificial cork of some sort.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2007


Nice use of the sort of cliche that would make a housewife from Des Moines cringe though.

You can have my cliches when you prise them from my cold, dead hands.

(Though I was, in fact, thinking of one designer in particular I've had to work with a lot. So there. Not my fault he lives the stereotype.)
posted by Sparx at 2:07 PM on February 19, 2007



"Sparkling Muscatel, one of the finest wines of Idaho... would you like to smell the bottlecap?"
posted by oneirodynia at 2:09 PM on February 19, 2007


You can have my cliches when you prise them from my cold, dead hands.

(Though I was, in fact, thinking of one designer in particular I've had to work with a lot. So there. Not my fault he lives the stereotype.)


Naw its cool. I responded to your cliche with one of my own about housewives in Des Moines so I shouldnt be shoutin out "Battleship" just yet myself.

No hard feelings though. The internet is fun!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:15 PM on February 19, 2007


The internet is fun!

HOORAH!

/I now return you to your regularly scheduled episode of Fripperous Snarkitude
posted by Sparx at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2007


Screwcaps are gaining acceptance. Good design can make a difference. Some designers and would-be designers, and some Apple fanatics, are wankers.
posted by everichon at 2:41 PM on February 19, 2007


I kind of enjoy mags like wallpaper, while AdBusters makes me want to puke, because at least wallpaper is shamelessly up front about their preoccupations. AB is ostensibly an anti-consumerist rag, but is transparently a cadre of impossibly self-satisfied design wankers.
posted by everichon at 2:48 PM on February 19, 2007


Really cool link.
posted by jayder at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2007


He calls it a disease because he is in its grip and has no cure. He can't help himself. We recently moved office and a designer friend came to have a look around. The first thing they said as they got out the lift was, "It's all Optima". The Four Emus wine is not a bad drop for AUS$10 a bottle. Nearly all wine in Australia is now enclosed with a screw cap.
posted by tellurian at 4:25 PM on February 19, 2007


I think that you think that I'm anti-design (which in our modern world is largely foolish), but really I just think that all this namby-pamby "special-snowflake" nonsense has to stop.

I don't think you're "anti-design," but I have to say I think you're barking up the wrong tree. I can't recall ever having seen anything (as designer or as client - I've played both roles) I would regard as precious, caricature-worthy "special-snowflakism" on the part of designers, and I certainly don't think it's a sufficiently powerful tendency that we need to worry about it.

I've seen plenty of designers, and even more dz9rs, fall in love with some conceit they came up with, and have a really hard time letting it go. But that's not the same thing, is it? Or has an outbreak of fan-waving, crypto-Lagerfeldian narcissism gone rampant in the land?

By contrast, hoo boy, I've met plenty of clients who want what they want whether or not it would actually serve their goals, who've read about this great new thing in the in-flight magazine, whose golf buddy's site has Widget X and who therefore wants it too, whose wife gets to throw out the results of an intensive year-long rebranding exercise because she's read that pink is the color this year...

These are all true stories, with the numbers involved running into the seven and eight figures.

Now which do you think does more to deform what people (customers, consumers, users) wind up being offered? Your fledgling Photoshop jockey, drunk on his or her new-found ability to set one pixel in front of another, who is presumably buffered from having any real consequence by at least two echelons of adults? Or the real trigger-puller, who can't keep his mind off his unraveling affair for the space of the meeting which will determine his business unit's Web strategy for at least the next budget cycle?

I just don't think your precious snowflake - if you can actually point me at one, that is - deserves the blame for the bad design decisions manifest around us. Would such a person be irritating to manage? Undoubtedly. Do they actually get a chance to do much in the way of damage? I can't see how.

I only wish I could say the same about some clients I've known.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:32 PM on February 19, 2007


Adam, again, I think you either haven't read the link, or don't understand what I'm saying, or both.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 4:55 PM on February 19, 2007


(and I must say, yes those are truly shocking examples, and you raise a good point, but again, I'm not sure we're entirely on the same level here.)
posted by Jeff_Larson at 5:09 PM on February 19, 2007


Jeff_Larson, What, to your mind, do designers do? Those good ones, should any happen to exist, who work professionally and without ego: what is it you think they are doing all day, and to what end?
posted by Richard Daly at 6:32 PM on February 19, 2007


"What's the difference between good design and bad design?"

It's the difference between Target and Walmart.

Everybody hates Walmart. Everybody. Even - hell, maybe especially - the people who shop there. And nobody has a bad thing to say about Target.

Yet, at root, they're the same damn store. Except that Target gives a damn about design. And Walmart clearly doesn't.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:10 PM on February 19, 2007


"fuck graphic design"
posted by infini at 9:06 PM on February 19, 2007


also, to be more useful - almost everything you ever wanted to know about design around the world - a superb collection of design portals, blogs, theory and practice of design writing and more.
posted by infini at 9:20 PM on February 19, 2007


"What's the difference between good design and bad design?"

Good design communicates and/or solves a problem so well, it looks invisible.

Bad design either "incorrectly" solves these problems or never even attempts to try to. I would agree that the differences between the two can be very subtle.

For instance, here's the Manteca Bulletin, a poorly designed newspaper and then here's the Bakersfield Californian, a well designed newspaper. I chose daily newspaper for this example because their design goals are pretty easy to understand: They want to show you important information in various degrees of how important it is. For instance, the lead story will probably be the first thing you see, at the top of the page. Various other stories, of lesser important, will also appear on the page, but not as emphasised as the lead story.

Ok, back to the Manteca Bulletin. What's the lead story here? Is it the birds? or the 5k for sewer games?

Now, look a the Bakesfield Californian. Is there ANY doubt what the main story is?


See how the BC organizes every element on the page to denote it's important and lead your eye where needs to be? For instance, the lead story's font is large and alternates between two font weights, for contrast, which draws the eye and sets it apart from the other headline on the page, which is done in a smaller font size and single font weight.

Compare the large first letter of each story on the BC (known as drop caps). See how the drop cap on the lead story is larger than the drop cap on the small story? This further tells you which is more important, while the drop caps also lead you to the actual meat i.e. story of each article. The drop is smaller than the head, but larger than the articles text font, helping readers to quickly see where the important info is.

And of course, there's that large photo at the top of the BC, which helps convey the energy and emotional impact of the story, while again telling you what the lead story is. But it's also telling you how important that lead story is. If you look at the BC from another day, it's going to look different, but it's still going to be well designed, that is, quickly conveying important information to it's readers, whatever that information is.

The Manteca Bulletin tries to do similar things, but it doesn't do it nearly as well. It doesn't use color well, to highlight different levels of information, nor does it use negative space or good fonts or photos to highlight it's stories.

The BC is definitely prettier. and that's FINE. People would rather look at pretty things. But it's pretty with a purpose, as it uses various design tools (color, negative space, emphasis) to highlight information and convey it's importance.

Do note that both papers are readable (and all you design snobs can shut up here). You can browse through either one to find news about their locations. However one of them is going to communicate a message or feeling and/or be easier to read to the general public.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:12 AM on February 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


« Older The 50 most underplayed and under-appreciated rap ...  |  Uncle Jay Explains the News.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments