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Comic Sans is Illegal
January 24, 2008 12:25 AM   Subscribe

Design Police : Bring bad design to justice
posted by Blazecock Pileon (44 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish to pay money for these in sticker form. Without that this is just one big ol' tease.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:17 AM on January 24, 2008


I'll post this before anyone else does.
posted by humuhumu at 1:40 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


And today, I've learnt the word kern.
posted by jontyjago at 1:47 AM on January 24, 2008


Just flag it and move on.
posted by hal9k at 1:49 AM on January 24, 2008


Backstory and interview with creators: Weeding design crime out at the root.
posted by RichardP at 1:55 AM on January 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


In my opinion the best sticker reads Helvetica was an unimaginative choice. Because the minimalist design of the stickers is white Helvetica on a simple red background, this particular sticker becomes self-aware to the nth degree. Once it has been applied somewhere, you can stick a second sticker next to the first one, and then a third sticker next to the second one, and so on indefinitely. This immediately brought back memories of the changing rooms in my grandmother’s clothes shop, which had mirrors on opposite walls. I was utterly fascinated with the endless repetition of the mirror image.
posted by geos at 2:50 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Designers need to get over themselves.
posted by Summer at 3:24 AM on January 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


No, themselves need to get some design. Honestly, take your intentionally ugly let's just make it cheap world and shove it up your ass.

My architecture school classmates and I would do this in chalk in front of buildings in Chicago - write up a pithy reveiw of a building and give it a grade.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:48 AM on January 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is great.
posted by grouse at 4:02 AM on January 24, 2008


Designers need to get over themselves AND we need to get some better design.

By which I mean: Rather than cosidering themselves artistes who only create one-off pieces to show at a design exhibition and then are never heard from again, quality designers should be working to actual do useful stuff for actual human beings. (Of course, many of them are, I'm just annoyed at all the beautiful, but useless and/or unavailable, designs I see all over the web.)
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


The inch glyph is NOT a speech mark

Good luck with that one, fellows.

These are lots of fun, thanks for the post. Passing the PDFs around the office already.
posted by sidereal at 5:12 AM on January 24, 2008


My architecture school classmates and I would do this in chalk in front of buildings in Chicago - write up a pithy reveiw of a building and give it a grade.
Because, being architecture students, your opinion was so important to everyone.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 5:13 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where's the "why the hell is every link a PDF" police?
posted by The Deej at 5:13 AM on January 24, 2008


The inch glyph is NOT a speech mark
Good luck with that one, fellows.


Actually, with biologists I have more trouble the other way around. People will write 5′ as 5’ due to the "smart quotes" of Microsoft products. Ugh.
posted by grouse at 5:22 AM on January 24, 2008


If I had these I'd never have to write another sticky note.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:24 AM on January 24, 2008


People will write 5′ as 5’

Even funnier, FireFox Win renders those identically in Verdana.
posted by sidereal at 6:24 AM on January 24, 2008


People will write 5′ as 5’ due to the "smart quotes" of Microsoft products.

Granted, you still know what it means.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:36 AM on January 24, 2008


You know... I probably would have found this funny, too, when I was 20. As I get older, though, I find that I have such a low tolerance for this sort of "I know so much better than you, and I'm gonna tell you!" snobbery. And it's in everything that college hipsters find...erm...hip (Remember that "your music sucks" website? What ever happened to that?). In reality, though, this just makes the people that would conceive or place these stickers come off as sanctimonious twats.

I'm a designer. I work in advertising and multimedia for some decently sized clients. I guess this makes me equal parts artist and Great Satan. Ten years ago when I started fresh out of college as an art director, I had this same sort of judgmental idealism. I read all the trade publications. I went to all the cool design websites.

Then, I started dealing with clients, and the workaday world of designing for people collided head-on with that idealism.

While there is surely a lot of bad design out there, a lot of it is also either entirely subjective or entirely client-driven. Clients force bad design decisions, or make changes at the 11th hour all the time. Other times, your deadline is just entirely too tight to sweat small details. Lazy? Maybe, I guess... but really, it's just reserving that meticulous attention to detail for the jobs where it matters most. Not every ad you produce is going to grace the pages of Print or HOW.

Though I agree with some of the peeves listed on these stickers, this sort of art school design Nazism just reeks of pratty, inexperienced academia.

OTOH, there is no conceivable excuse in the world for the use of Comic Sans, short of lettering a Tumbleweeds strip...




Oh, and you youngsters stay off my lawn.
posted by kaseijin at 6:37 AM on January 24, 2008 [17 favorites]


Saw a cartoon of this once:

Art Director smearing Designer's face on drafting board:
"No! Bad Design! Bad!"
Production Manager to Art Director:
"It's no use. You have to catch them in the act."
posted by hal9k at 6:38 AM on January 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Then, I started dealing with clients, and the workaday world of designing for people collided head-on with that idealism.

While there is surely a lot of bad design out there, a lot of it is also either entirely subjective or entirely client-driven. Clients force bad design decisions, or make changes at the 11th hour all the time. Other times, your deadline is just entirely too tight to sweat small details. Lazy? Maybe, I guess... but really, it's just reserving that meticulous attention to detail for the jobs where it matters most. Not every ad you produce is going to grace the pages of Print or HOW.


Truer words were never spoken. Especially the part about clients. Quite frankly, the client that actually values thoughtful design...the kind of design that can actually make your product/message break-through the clutter while maintaining a modicum of self-respect...is a rare, rare bird. Most clients simply don't give a shit about any of that. They just want their arrows, borders and drop-shadowed type.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:47 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some biologists take the time to create keyboard shortcuts in Word so that the prime symbol rather than the single quote is used appropriately when writing about nucleic acid sequences. (Just because it is on my keyboard doesn't mean it is correct.)

Some biologists also understand words like leading (without needing to be told it rhymes with "heading"), kerning, x-height, etc., and take a few minutes to choose fonts weighted for headings, captions or body where appropriate.

Some biologists use actual design tools like InDesign and Illustrator to build posters and illustrations, rather than relying on PowerPoint and Word art. (If you have a screwdriver, put the butterknife down, I always say.)

Of course, I'm in the minority, and I know it. Just wanted you to know that the complaints about poor design are not falling on entirely dead ears outside of the arts and letters field.

Man do I want some "Incorrect use of apostrophe" stickers.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:03 AM on January 24, 2008


sidereal writes "Even funnier, FireFox Win renders those identically in Verdana."

No, it doesn't. I'm using FF Win and Verdana, and I can see it. The difference is subtle but it is visible if you look closely. The bottom of the prime symbol touches the mean line, while the single quote does not. The top of the prime symbol also does not extend beyond the cap height, but the single quote extends to the ascender height.

(And to be fair, as a non-designer I cheated by looking up the terminology for those lines before posting. I knew what they were, but wasn't exactly sure what to call them...)
posted by caution live frogs at 7:08 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone who, just last month, screamed to my (talented graphic designer + more) boyfriend about the layout of my new book, loudly, while stomping my feet...

"She [the book designer] should have her copy of InDesign TAKEN AWAY! And then someone should slap her!"

"It looks like she laid it out in WORD!"

etc etc

...I quickly realized it was useless to struggle any more. After all, this is an industry full of editors who think unreadable text on a cover is ok. (My first book, Knitgrrl, had its title set in a font that made it read Knitgzzl. After the inevitable Snoop Doggy Dogg jokes, I raised enough of a fuss to get them to change it. Since then, I've grown too tired to fight).

I wish I'd had these stickers a month ago when I was reviewing the galleys.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:17 AM on January 24, 2008



Man do I want some "Incorrect use of apostrophe" stickers.


If I had those stickers, I would probably get fired, and possibly also get my ass kicked. That wouldn't stop me though because I hate grocers' apostrophes with a fiery unholy passion.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:33 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


(and lest you think I'm just a design snob meany...)

It hurts to see a project you've worked on for many months, a project you're then going to have to be the public face for (in a field where pretty counts and the visuals are equally important to the text in many respects) be slaughtered by bad design. This is not the newsletter of the local YMCA, it's something that's going to be on the shelf for a while.

Clients force bad design decisions

Oh hell yes, kaseijin. Except here, I'm not the one calling the shots, the publishers are. And when they lack even the most basic design literacy -- covers, for example, should be clear and readable at least 6' away, especially the title -- it feels like you're pounding your head on a wall when you point out the problems with something they think looks just fine.

This is one reason I've made it a goal to work with only design-literate publishers in future.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:48 AM on January 24, 2008


I'm rarely one to praise ignorance, but:

Goddamn I'm happy I'm ignorant about typography. Everything I've read from people who're into typography and design gives me the impression that they spend agony-filled days looking at improper em-dashes and hyphens and horizontal midlines and dashes and a million other words for things that look identical to me. They gnash their teeth at billboards and agonize over clients. And the tradeoff is that, maybe once or twice a year, they see a really well-kerned set of exclamation points that doesn't make them want to pull their hair out.

I, on the other hand, can't tell the difference between any of the lines-which-go-sideways. And, yeah, I miss the admiration of the well-kerned exclamation points, but the tradeoff is that I spend every day in bliss, unconcerned about the difference between ' and ' .
posted by Bugbread at 8:01 AM on January 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


I believe you'll want to combine that with this.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:32 AM on January 24, 2008


I want a subscription to WHAT?! DEATH RAY Magazine.
posted by Eideteker at 8:45 AM on January 24, 2008


Goddamn I'm happy I'm ignorant about typography.

You sound like a lot of publishers I know.

It's not all about the em-dashes and apostrophes, bugbread. In the end, what good typography does is often so subtle you don't even realize why it's GOOD. It's readable and engaging and relates to the content and gets a message across. Where communication counts, typography does a lot of the heavy lifting, and those who don't appreciate it have no idea just how much harm bad typography does.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:50 AM on January 24, 2008


bitter-girl.com,

Yeah, I should probably explain that I'm happy about my ignorance, not in the sense that "everyone should be as ignorant as I am", because then typography would be so atrocious that even I would notice. And, while I may be ignorant, I do notice some bad typography (mystery/thriller novel covers use a horrible compressed sans-serif that's nigh illegible). I just meant that my ignorance allows me to only notice the obvious bad typography, and not get bothered by all the little em-dash versus en-dash stuff that people complain about on MeFi. So I'm happy someone else is knowledgeable, so they can fight the good fight.
posted by Bugbread at 9:02 AM on January 24, 2008


Agreed. Getting your panties in a twist over an em-dash is pretty much pointless. It's the larger stuff that gets to me more. And the fact that the people who are getting paid to worry about these things aren't, leaving the rest of us high and dry.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:17 AM on January 24, 2008


People who create things like this are just hoping that they'll get an interview someplace trendy because there's no way their actual professional design work is going to get them noticed.
posted by shmegegge at 9:57 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


sidereal writes "Even funnier, FireFox Win renders those identically in Verdana."

No, it doesn't.


Holy crap, you're right! I just didn't CTRL+ enough. Slightly less ignorant today, thanks CLF!
posted by sidereal at 10:41 AM on January 24, 2008


The only thing I'd like to point out is that design often matters a lot less than designers think it does. No matter how much media enthusiasts and designers would like to have it otherwise, the message is the medium. An old marketing story I read somewhere that I can neither cite nor remember perfectly goes something like this: a company decided to experiment, so it hired two different firms to advertise its products. One of them was a hip advertising firm that used the standard hip, design-centered perspective. It was well received by the rest of the advertising community. The other firm made those awful ads that probably make most graphic designers gnash their teeth: bright unsubtle colors, large sans-serif skewed lettering, the works. The hook was that they had two ads or something, and one said, "Find the treasure chest in this week's TV Guide" or something for a coupon for the product.

Guess which promotion led to more sales?

In my opinion, you can make communication that is artful, and communication that is less artful. But don't assume that the communication that is less artful deserves to be derided, because it often "works".
posted by Deathalicious at 11:06 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


They don't line up well for easy cut-outs.
posted by robot at 1:38 PM on January 24, 2008


Sure, we all know that CS sucks, but I could use some decals that say "Uppercase Zapf Chancery is the worst typography on earth."

People just can't get enough of that godawful typeface, and when it's in ALL CAPS, it's a goddamn abomination.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:01 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone who hits 40 in a few months and has worked in design & publishing jobs most of my adult life, I say fuck off to those useless old gits upthread who are too tired, lazy, bored or just too crap to care any more. Bloody hacks. More power to those who actually give a shit. I saw these on an RSS feed the other day and can't wait to start using them.

Then again, why should we care about things being done well?

All web sites should be done in MS Front Page – what's the point of wasting time & effort learning all of that programming crap when software can do it for you? Why bother reading books where's loads of great stuff to read on MySpace and Bebo? Bored of food preparation too. Gimme pills to feed me.

And so forth.
posted by i_cola at 2:11 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I do love the irony of one of the protagonists now working for a company with a classic example of a silly little crap Flash website tho'.)
posted by i_cola at 2:16 PM on January 24, 2008


You also live in the UK, i_cola. It's worth noting that European clients tend to place much more value on good design aesthetics than their American counterparts, who trend toward the very conservative side of things.

Of course, the kids making these stickers are also in the UK – so there's a point to be made there, I suppose. Still, might do well to consider these sorts of things (plus the size of your agency, do you work for a boutique where you have all the time in the world to fuss details and can cherry pick only the hippest of clients?) before dismissing the rest of us out of hand as hacks and gits.

Go into any large agency and ask the creatives there to throw out a percent estimate of how much of their work they feel they compromise on. My guess is that it will be a fairly large number. It might be smaller at a high-profile place like Saatchi, where they tend to feel like their shit smells like the botanic gardens just because it came from Saatchi... but trust me, it's still shit.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to compromise, and we could make things as attractive and precise as we wanted, every time on every job. After you pass the threshold of technical proficiency, though, you still have to deal with the subjective. There are still going to be people who simply don't like your design for whatever reason, the same way I might like Motherwell and not Mondrian, for instance. The adults keep these opinions to themselves, the prats tell people their work sucks.
posted by kaseijin at 2:43 PM on January 24, 2008


i_cola writes "Then again, why should we care about things being done well?"

Because they cost an arm and a leg?

The pen I'm using isn't a great pen. It's not bad, but it's just a decent $2.50 pen. I could get a great, great, great, great pen for a few hundred dollars. Or I could use that money instead on a family vacation.

I'm not saying that "cheapest is best", or that "nothing is worth paying for", but there's a sweet spot in between "perfect and yet exorbitantly expensive" and "dirt cheap and shitty quality". Designers who comment in MeFi seem to always take the tack of "if people don't want perfection, then I guess they want absolute shit". I fail to see the evidence of that. If it were true, companies wouldn't hire designers in the first place, they'd just get their accountants or janitors to doodle something up with a sheet of ruled paper and a few crayons.
posted by Bugbread at 2:47 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


"...the same way I might like Motherwell and not Mondrian, for instance. The adults keep these opinions to themselves..."

...when talking to the artist, I meant to say.
posted by kaseijin at 2:59 PM on January 24, 2008


I also meant to close my bold tag. *sigh* It's been a long day, chock full of client compromise. ;)
posted by kaseijin at 3:00 PM on January 24, 2008


I think it speaks volumes that the creator of these (admittedly very funny, and I could actually see being somewhat useful) "self-print stickers" is still in school.

I don't mean to sound like a grumpy old man, but kaseijin has it right. If you look at Stephen Woowat's portfolio, all you see is fancy designs for theoretical products/projects. Things that would look really cool - but no one would ever make (though, I guess you could probably package sand in a box and pretend it's a neat new golf tool, yuppies love fancy packaging).

The problem, as a designer, is that you start with the best of intentions. Your "dream" for a given project. Your first few years out in the field will be spent making glorious mockups that took many hours, sometimes days, to create. Then, when your dream design is shown to the client - they don't grok it in the way you do. Chances are, you won't even be there to explain it. Some design-hindered translator (read : manager above you in ranks) will be presenting the mockup to the client and likely saying "yeah, I don't know why he chose that typeface either".

After a few years of having people who don't know diddly-shit about design tell you that the design you spent hours on "doesn't work" or "isn't what we're going for", you get pretty jaded. And lazy. And now you only spend an hour or so on a mockup. Likely, you make 10 mockups, cookie-cutter from that first one with only minor variations. You're not surprised when they come back not being pleased, and all you want is to see the end of this lame project and get paid.

It's sad, but the adage I use regarding design is "everyone's an expert - except you" (I even wrote a lengthy article about it online) because for all your years of experience, keeping up on design trends, studying user behavior, and wandering about with the best of intentions - the jackass with the check calls the shots and he likes ALL CAPS COMIC SANS in lime green on a bright red background. And, they'll call in 100 non-experts to convince you that you don't know shit about their product/brand/audience.

This is why every designer I've ever known has retired by their mid-30s and gone into their own projects, where they call the shots. I'm in the middle of that phase myself, getting ready to turn 30 this year. Interestingly enough, most clients scratch their head wondering why a designer's best work is the stuff they make for themselves.

I foresee that Mr. Woowat's clients will look at his portfolio years from now and say "now why didn't he put this same kind of energy into MY product design?"

(and ironically, someone will slap one of these design-police labels on said design)
posted by revmitcz at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Comic Sans is illegal, we're all offenders.
posted by flatluigi at 8:20 PM on January 24, 2008


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