It Takes More Than Being Clever to be a Good Designer

November 12, 2009 at 7:27 pm 2 comments

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I consider myself a clever person. I also consider myself a very good designer and I have a few awards to validate that. However the two don’t always go together nor does just being clever make you a good designer.

As designers, we’ve all had that stroke of inspiration that leads to a clever idea. Over the years I have had a few. Some were good ideas and some very, very bad. It’s the bad ones that stand out in my memory. I’m reminded of two in particular.

Years ago back in the day of floppy disks, I would put a small slide show of my work on a disk and send it to prospective clients. I also came up with the clever idea of sticking my nicely designed business card on a self-adhesive magnet and put that in the same envelope as the disk. After all, after the prospect saw my stunning portfolio they would want to stick my business card on the nearest metal surface for future reference. Clever, huh? Well the magnet, as you have already figured out, would erase the disk so all my effort, though clever, was wasted.

While employed with a major University my supervisor and I came up with a poster with contact information cards mounted on it. The poster was to be sent to every high school counselor in the state. The finished product was beautiful. Nice beauty shot of the campus, well-written headline, and info card nicely designed and appealing. But wait! During mailing all the info cards fell off the poster. I would imagine most of the posters ended up in the wastebasket. Their cleverly thought out effectiveness a total waste.

A copywriter friend of mine, Steve White, once sent out a self-promo piece that included a small bottle of hot sauce to further reinforce the premise that he was a “hot” talent and should be hired. Very, very clever. One small problem. The small bottles broke in the mail and the recipient received a mess inside of a welcome promo piece.

So as you can see being clever isn’t always good design. Good design is well thought out. As I used to tell my boys when they were little, “you need to follow your thinking all the way to the end to a logical conclusion.” In other words you need to think your design though to the total end result. Even to how it will be delivered to the end user and what shape it will be in.

Design is not just pretty type and pictures printed on nice paper. Good design does so much more. When it is good it is welcomed by the end user and delivers the intended message. It doesn’t get tossed into the trash or not at least right away because of the mess. We are bombarded by clever everyday. You see it especially in today’s advertising. Sometimes it is used instead of good, well thought out design. The pet rock was clever; Volkswagen commercials of the 60’s were good design.

Are you a small business owner who is tired of clever and looking for good well thought out design? Give me a call, I’m here to help. My contact info is:Email MI Logo PMS 377

Michael Irvin
Creative Project Manager
913.677.7060 cell: 913.530.7030

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Friend of a Friend  |  November 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Hmm. I know that writer called Steve who was mentioned above. As I understand it, great care was taken to ensure the bottles were well-padded for their arduous journey. They just weren’t well-insulated! Suffice it to say that an overly clever 22-year-old does not concern himself with the hazards of winter postal service! Nonetheless, the point is well made and well taken! ; )

    Excellent column as usual.

  • 2. mirvin1129  |  November 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you set the record straight and fleshed out the details.


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