Just Say No :: To Magazine Insert Cards

June 8, 2010

It has gotten to the point where I shake my magazines over the recycle bin before reading them.

Does anyone really use those annoying little insert cards that magazines insist on hiding between the pages? It’s one thing if I am reading the magazine at the bookstore, or at the dentist, but when I have already subscribed, do I need three or four annoying little cards with subscription offers? They fall out all over the place. Besides, I’ll be getting the renewal letter in the mail soon anyway — a letter letting me know my subscription is expiring and I wouldn’t want to miss a SINGLE issue so I’d better renew now. Even though it doesn’t expire for another six months….

Do we even need to talk about the wasted paper? They may be small but I bet they add up. If they eliminated those little cards from all the subscriber magazines, just think of how many fewer they’d need to print!

And even if they did eliminate the loose cards from within the pages, they’d STILL have the one or two that are attached and perforated. Which are almost as annoying as the loose ones.

Besides, subscriptions are so inexpensive these days, it’s not like magazines make money on the subscriptions themselves. The printing and postage cost more than the subscription. It’s advertising that pays the bills. But magazines need reader and subscriber percentages to sell advertising. Knowing all of that, I still don’t see the need for all these annoying little cards. Do they really generate that many new subscriptions? Does anyone know?


The Design Police are Alive and Well

June 7, 2010

Oh Design Police, where was your visual enforcement kit back when I was managing a team of designers? I bet your clever labels with their official-looking arrows would have carried much more authority than my measly handwritten notes.

I especially love the labels, “Comic Sans is illegal,” “Legible from space,” and “Helvetica was an unimaginative choice.” Your philosophies are completely in tune with ours here at Fight Bad Design.

Design Police, I believe every proofreader and editor should be armed with this kit. Therefore, I hereby implore you to create a digital version that enables me to insert these labels individually into a PDF. Because really, who proofreads or edits on paper anymore?

Oh Papyrus, Why Were You Created?

January 5, 2010

Oh Chris Costello, what were you thinking? Clearly an accomplised creative person such as yourself could have seen the Papyrus-trainwreck coming. Yet you forged ahead. And now thousands of inexperienced designers (and anyone with access to a computer) can inappropriately use it to create flyers, announcements, invitations, and menus with a touch of this seudo-ancient-looking font. Even sign shops can use it! (I think I even saw this on a resume years ago. For shame!)

Menu cover for Spice Village. Most of the offending typography is inside, although you get a nice hint of it on the cover.

Menu cover for Spice Village. Most of the offending typography is inside, although you get a nice hint of it on the cover.

As designers everywhere are up in arms about James Cameron’s mis-use of Papyrus in his latest accomplishment, Avatar, I have found a more local offense.

Spice Village Grill in Huntington Village (NY) is one of the newest restaurants to pop up on Main Street. Camera shop turned hookah bar turned restaurant, Spice Village Grill offers an authentic menu, a cozy atmosphere, and friendly servers and owners. And Papyrus. Yes, the rather cheap menu is not just poorly printed, it is done entirely in Papyrus, with a little Monotype Corsiva (yellow type with red drop shadows!) thrown in for good measure.

Oh my eyes! Clear Papyrus overload (among other design injustices.)

Here is something that will surprise you: I don’t think Papyrus is all bad. I don’t. I think it has its place. But that place is unlikely to ever be visited by most of us so Papyrus should just be left alone. Just. Don’t. Do. It. But if you must know, here are the times when Papyrus would be appropriate to use: when you’re designing the DVD or book cover of a biblical account – and you’re printing it on parchment, and when you’re… well, that’s about it. Enjoy!

Why Oh Why… Do Some People Still Use Double Spaces After a Period?!

November 9, 2009

The double spaces after a period argument has been debated ad nauseum, just do a quick search and you’ll see. Even the “experts” disagree on this topic. Which is why, as someone who grew up using typewriters and the first word-processors, and as both a grammar/punctuation fanatic and a professional designer and business owner, I’m here to clear it up!

Back when typewriters were the only alternative to hand-written pages, type was mono spaced. This means that every key took up the same amount of space, whether it was an “i” or an “m.” It sometimes made it difficult to visually determine a pause in a sentence, which is indicated by a comma, from the end of a sentence, indicated with a period. It also meant that sometimes there were larger and smaller spaces between letters. So, for no other reason than to improve visual readability, it became common practice to use two spaces after a period when using a typewriter. The space following all other punctuation was still a single-space.

offset_printingIt’s important to note here, that in offset printing, no double spaces were used. Older printing was “set” using individual letter blocks that were set one-by-one in a press. These letter blocks already accommodated for the differences in the width of letters and appropriate spacing after punctuation, so no double-spacing was required. The double spacing was solely for the purpose of legibility on typewriters. Additionally, having a single space shortened the overall text, and decreased printing and paper costs. Some say this also lead to the adoption of single-spacing.

Along came the first word-processors. Some of which were glorified typewriters with some automated functionality, but they quickly evolved into something that closely resembles the word processing we use today. And here’s why that’s important – word processors and the computers we use today have proportional type. Proportional type means that the computer font already accounts for both the width of each individual letter, and the appropriate visual spacing after punctuation. So there is no longer any need to add that old-fashioned double space. In fact, because it is already accounted for, adding a double space is adding much more space than is visually necessary and creates visual “rivers” through a block of type. Read the rest of this entry »

2016 Olympic Applicant City Logos :: No Wonder Rio Won

October 6, 2009
Olympic logos from the 2016 applicant cities.

Olympic logos from the 2016 applicant cities.

Every four years, cities from around the world vie to be the host of an upcoming Olympics. Beginning in 2007, cities began their campaigns for the 2016 Olympics. As you probably know by now, Rio was chosen to be the host for the 2016 Summer Olympics and it will be the first time it’s been held in South America.

If you ask me, it’s no wonder Rio was chosen. Just look at their applicant logo! Design-wise and aesthetic-wise it is clearly the winner. They integrated the typography in a clever way and were clearly unique in their decision to not use the five standard Olympic colors. (Keep in mind these are the applicant logos and as applicants, they are not entitled to use the Olympic rings in their logos.) Read the rest of this entry »

Footless Woman :: Good for Business?

September 25, 2009
The Oasis — A Club for Men who Love Footless Women

The Oasis — A Club for Men who Love Footless Women

Setting aside the fact that I am a woman and clearly do not understand the appeal of the “gentleman’s club,” the design of this sign is just wrong on so many levels.

I drive by this sign on my way to work each day, and after five years, I largely ignore it. However, considering the purpose of this blog is to highlight bad design (in an effort to eventually abolish bad design — quite a challenge, I know) through education, I thought it might be time to call attention to it.

So the idea here is pretty clear; let’s use the club’s name, The Oasis, and give it a visual that says what oasis actually means. Surprisingly, in that respect, it is actually successful. Most of us will conjure up images of a tropical island when asked to define the word oasis. It isn’t the prettiest sign in the world — in fact, it’s downright ugly. The woman is sitting at an uncomfortable-looking awkward angle almost leaning against the tree, but not. However, that is not the sign’s biggest issue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dancing Girls = Good Advertising?!

August 20, 2009

Picture 3 You’ve seen these ads, right? They are usually advertising a refinance, or for moms to go back to school, or some other diluted version of a presidential plan. The messaging is very clear in all of them, and isn’t anything new. But why the dancing girls?

Honestly, I am trying to find some virtue in the dancing girls. I’m trying to find some reason for their being, other than some movement on the page to capture attention. But if the advertiser is trying to get my attention why wouldn’t they create some movement that is actually relevant to the ad content? Is that such a crazy idea? Is it so radical to think that an ad’s imagery and content might want to have something in common?Picture 5

So we have these girls dancing on the page. I’ve even seen some silhouetted men dancing. These guys seem a little Chippendale-esque to me. And again, I’m not exactly clear on what their purpose is. But I’m seeing more and more dancing people promoting loans, college degrees and even auto insurance.

So I’m wondering if there’s a common thread. Other than the tackiness of these irrelevant dancing people that is. Does anyone know? Is it some financial institution using these disparate ideas to get people to borrow money for school, homes, or…. car insurance?
Picture 4
Once I clicked on one of the return-to-school ads to see where it went, it seems to be a searchable database of schools and areas of study. I couldn’t see if it had a financial tie-in. And if they are several separate businesses, why would they all use the same, silly idea?

These ads all get an A+ in tackiness and irrelevance. And with their occasional use of Comic Sans, their regular use of Relfex Blue, and their inability to come up with a concept, they all get a big F in design. Don’t you agree?

Deception on the Store Shelf :: Over the top “retouching”

July 22, 2009

Open any magazine and you’ll see images that have been retouched into oblivion. Perfect skin, narrow waists, flawless hair – these manipulated images depict people you’ll never see this way in real life. But by now we are all pretty much aware of this fact.

But when you purchase a product, specifically a boxed product, you rely on the photo to give you a real sense of what’s inside. Sure it might be retouched to improve color, texture or blemishes, but it should certainly be shown to scale in proportion with the other objects or people in the image.

Proportions can be deceiving... especially when you can use Photoshop!

Proportions can be deceiving... especially when you can use Photoshop!

For example, I recently purchased this inflatable pool for my kids – the Slide ‘N Splash Whale Pool from Banzai. From the photo on the box, it looks like a decent sized pool. And although the true dimensions are written on the box, it’s typically the photo a consumer would rely on to determine whether or not to purchase a product.

What I learned once I unpacked and inflated the product, is that it is proportionally MUCH smaller than what is depicted on the box. Not slightly, which might be forgivable, but vastly and greatly different. Unless these children are approximately 18-inches tall, there is no way this photo is real. This photo has been modified, at the very least, to shrink the images of the children to probably two thirds to half of their actual size. In reality, the slide is so small that when my 2 year-old sits at the top, her feet reach into the pool. (Yes, my daughter is an average-sized child.)

From a marketing and design perspective, this is blatant and intentional deception. By “faking” the proportions in their favor, Banzai believes they will sell more pools. And they probably will. I would not have bought it if the photo had more accurately depicted the size of the product. But they won’t make their customers happy by deceiving them. In fact, I have bought my first, and last Banzai product.