Design Mistakes That Will Haunt You
Design is a job. Mike Monteiro said it first in his timely book, and we at Creative Juice couldn’t agree more. Design is a job that considers a thousand different business goals and how to apply creative solutions. The problem, of course, is that not everyone sees it that way. There is a school of thought that looks at the design process as an unnecessary expense and an easy task that the newest intern could complete in 30 minutes. The ghastly designs and business logos that come from this line of thinking haunt the companies that choose to use them. They can cost the company its reputation and in extreme cases, it can completely disillusion a target audience causing the loss of revenue.
To be fair, Photoshop is not the only source of comical design flops that have appeared over the years. We have practically grown immune to missing body parts, overlapping text, and unfortunate results of the eraser tool that make appearances in major magazines and newspapers. What these design mistakes don’t include are the consequences that can happen when perfectly good ads are placed in unfortunate circumstances.
Now one might argue that placement is the result of changing situations and cannot be helped. We disagree. Design is a 360 job and must be looked at from all angles to make the intended impression. In 2008 when Yahoo’s tech prowess was near its height, the tech giant chose to place an ad at the Giant’s baseball stadium in San Francisco. Not a poor decision on its own, but being placed right next to the 404 markers, the irony became apparent for the cities many engineers. For clarity, 404 errors symbolize the occurrence when a web page is not located on a server.
In a recent example of rebranding disaster, America’s beloved tea company Celestial Seasonings chose to do away with their traditional branding. Their goal was to appeal to a younger audience and update the company image by making the tea boxes look crisp and clean with an updated logo reminiscent of a celestial shooting star. It ended poorly, however. What the rebranding company did not account for in all their user research and storytelling collaboration was the fact that their younger audience, many of them millennials, had grown up with Celestial Seasonings. The old logo was small and less of a focal point then the storybook nature the tea boxes provided. Indeed, the logo was so ingratiated in these illustrations that the brand quickly returned to their old branding after significant customer complaints.
New Celestial Seasonings Branding
Old Celestial Seasonings Branding
A very early rendition of branding by Sherwin Williams released a print ad in 1906 that can only be described as frightening to the modern eye. While their intention may have been to inspire a kind of world superiority over their competition, the branding came across as bloody and perhaps even perverse.
Design is also a job that requires us to speak intelligently about our critique of the design itself. In an interview, she gave for Fastco Design, Amy Nicole Schwarts the director of design for Cards Against Humanity and Blackbox talked about the design trend in speaking in a very basic way about what logos look like. “I feel like the critiques that you see are never really rooted in anything substantial. We don’t have a true critical dialogue about graphic design. People can say that they don’t like the Airbnb logo, and you can ask them why, and they’ll say, “It looks like testicles.” I’d like to see people make bigger connections and make a full statement beyond just a quick glance at it.”
What we can take away from Schwarts’ critique of design critique are three major things. First, it is imperative that we look at the big picture, where the advertisement of the logo will be placed and how might that be associated with the overall image? Second, what are the goals that stand behind the design? Do they match up with the picture? Did we empathize with our users and get to know their needs? Lastly, spend some time with the story. Every company has something unique that will help its design resonate with its target audience. The ghastly design prevents this.