Re: Our Real Nemesis

Subject: Re: Our Real Nemesis
From: Diane Haugen <dhaugen -at- MEANS -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 14:17:50 -0500

Tim Altom commented:

>But lately we've encountered another, seemingly more formidable foe: the
>graphic designer. ...Our problems begin, however, when appearance
>contradicts function.

I think what you're observing is a rerun of the early desktop publishing
days when people used six type faces in three lines just because the
technology allowed you to do it without much difficulty.

Color is very persuasive, so when you add pictures and color to the mix of
all that technology allows you to do, there are always going to be people
who are swayed by the looks instead of the meaning.

I created and produced a catalog for a farm equipment company and I always
had trouble getting them to hire professional photographers to do the
advertising pictures of their equipment. All they wanted to do was send
the salesperson into the equipment yard with a poloroid camera. To my
mind, the professional pictures were a great improvement. The man I worked
for didn't like them because they weren't colorful enough.

When another equipment manufacturer showed this man a catalog of scanned
equipment pictures in which every single picture had been doctored to show
exactly the same bright company red no matter what the weather when the
picture was taken, the man I worked for loved it. I pointed out to him
that the grass was brown in half the pictures. He didn't care. He loved
the red.

Even when you point out that the information is confusing or design is
poor, my experience is that about two-thirds of the people will simply say,
"yes, but..." and insist that it's fine the way it is.

Someone you are working with needs to be concerned that the manual you are
working on is readable and easy to use. If there's no one in a decision
making role who values usability and good text design, I suspect the
baubles will always win. And then you will still probably need some war
stories to bring your point home. Perhaps a list of companies who have had
their equipment returned because people couldn't follow the manual and get
it to work. :>

I use vintage etchings in the books I design, books that many readers find
more readable than their precursors. I still had one book reviewer
complain that it seemed like I tried to fill up every page with cheesy clip

Tim, would you be interested in raising the same issue on the grahics
design list? I think you would get some very valauble responses -- there
are a number of very good designers, including instructors, on the list who
give thoughtful answers to many questions.

Diane Haugen

Diane Haugen Whiskey Creek Document Design

Editor, Document Design

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