Bad Design Is Everywhere.
One of the most frequent challenges I face in this hyper-connected world is the ubiquity of bad design. As a graphic designer I wince at the “vibrations” of similar blues and reds that leave the sight impaired scratching their heads. I suffer—and thus has my family suffered—misguided letter-spacing, awkward alignments, and mystifying font choices and mixtures. As a writer, I stumble—perhaps more than most—at missing or extra commas, grammatical errors, and unnecessary quotes.
I’m not proposing I’m special in this way or that I have it hard relative to those in other industries. I could consider myself lucky in this regard. Whenever I see a terrible flyer, billboard, etc., I annoyingly point it out to people who never care in the slightest. But I know that all of this assaulting bad design will be out with the trash sooner than later. Many other professions’ life/death cycles are longer than that of graphic design. If I were an architect, the design stupidity I would notice daily is baked into the landscape. For decades. At a minimum.
So I should bask in my good fortune, right? I could. I would, if I didn’t feel so badly for the people I encounter through the year who have paid for all of this bad design.
Bad Design Experiences—Also Everywhere.
Read through Company Man Design Testimonials and you’ll see how many of the people we’ve helped are what I have affectionately have dubbed “design rescues”.
Because the graphic design life/death cycle is so short, there is a greater frequency of need for it. That means a few things:
- More graphic designers
- Misleading design portfolios
- Hit-and-run episodes
Before I discuss these points, let me make clear I believe that most graphic designers are proficient and ethical. But, like so many things in life, it only a few bad players to taint the wider perception of something—in this case, the graphic design industry. And for anyone who has had the figurative design rug pulled out from under them, it only takes one.
On this front, our mission at Company Man Design is two-fold: to ensure good design experiences; and to replace companies’ and individuals’ bad design experiences with positive ones.
More Graphic Designers.
On the surface, this sounds like a good problem. Lots of work means many people working. Yay for the Fatherland. And I mostly agree, let’s get the good designers out there and make this world a more attractive place with clearer, smarter communication. But the fact is, anyone can call themselves a graphic designer, and any shaky or unethical designer can call themselves… anything. And the unsuspecting customer often won’t know the difference. The marketplace is like a cloud of gnats, buzzing filled to overstuffed with similar-looking options to consider.
Misleading Design Portfolios.
I occasionally click around to see other designers’ and firms’ websites and their portfolios of design work. Sometimes I’m genuinely wowed to where I want to hang up my design hat. More often, however, I see this: a couple wowing design followed by a few decent-to-middling ones and ending up with a few that could only be the designers’ favorites I’m guessing they can’t let go of. In my experience, this exposes an inexperienced designer. They don’t have a lot to show so they’re presenting weeds alongside the flowers, so to speak.
In seeking a designer, look deeply and closely at their design portfolio. If you can’t, then success: you’ve seen what you needed to see. Continue your search.
By far, hit-and-run design experiences are the most common bad design episodes customers share with us and that we’re tasked to correct. Unfortunately, this problem doesn’t require much explanation. It’s likely that any of us has been promised something, it hasn’t been delivered—as expected or at all—and the offending party leaves with their promised compensation. In these cases we’re left feeling the emptiness of theft and potentially having our views negatively altered.
And the bad news is that, even if you’ve vetted a designer’s or firm’s portfolio, you may still deal with a bad player. Thank goodness we live in a world of online testimonials, reviews, and easy connection to past clients.
Dogs, Foxes, and Hens: What You Must Do As a Customer To Protect Yourself.
In the design landscape, you or your organization is a scrumptious hen. Most graphic designers and design firms are like happy dogs. Many won’t proactively protect you like Company Man Design, but they’re at worst harmless and passive. And bad players are the foxes. There aren’t many of them but there are enough of them to pop up in their sheep’s clothing, tell you all kinds of promising things, show you the stolen watches they have for sale, and then eat your scrumptious hen body.
So your job is
- To look past the glitz of a flashy website
- To listen past the confident sales pitches
- And to always protect yourself by keeping design expectations, costs, fees, dates, and any other agreement details in writing, whether in text, email, or contract.
Be the hen. A smart, careful, confident hen. Don’t get eaten.