Utility versus Futility

I’m standing in line at the mall across from a Talbots store window. In it, a large sign is hanging by wires that reads ‘the red hanger sale.’ The type is in a brownish red color and what appears to be Times New Roman. Above the stacked text is a fashion illustration of a hanger. I don’t fine it very attractive, but I realized after being forced to stare at it for 5 min in line that… it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t UNattractive, it just IS. And ultimately, it gets the job done.

I sometimes run into the disheartening realization, when making random design observations to friends, that 99% of the world’s population does not care two wits about what might be considered ‘good’ design. I won’t get into the age old discussion of what is ‘good’ work in such a subjective field, because that’s not the point. The point is that no matter what the design world might decide has merit as design, the majority of our audience has a very different opinion on “good,” one that usually borders on indifference. The point is that when designing, we need to keep utility in mind. Too often I find myself drawn to the ads and layouts and concepts that probably lost 70% of viewers because they appealed too much to me- to a graphic designer.

Obviously you need to keep your audience in mind when designing but if you are, in fact, creating something for a general public audience then you might want to keep in mind that 99% of humanity doesn’t know ‘good’ design from a hole in the wall. I know I make the mistake… when designing, I try to create something lofty and original and forget that ultimately I’m just shaping a visual communication that has a more important job to do. The real challenge lies in creating work so effective, that it captures the intended viewer while also standing out as a piece of truly “good” design. So ‘red hanger sale’ sign, I apologize for being pretentious. Keep up the good work!

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