Episode #96
Designing bad things for good reasons

When is bad design used intentionally? And when can bad design be better than good design?

Music and links from this episode

  1. Night Owl by Broke for Free
  2. Steppin by Wake
  3. How Exciting by Revolution Void

Line-by-line notes

  1. INTRO
  2. Design is used for lots of things
  3. But when it’s used intentionally
  4. It’s used to communicate things
  5. Trust
  6. Confidence
  7. A particular feeling or emotion
  8. Lots of stuff
  9. In episode 94, I spoke about amazing design
  10. Today, I’m talking about bad design
  11. Or, awful design
  12. This is AADA, and I’m Craig Burgess
  14. Awful design
  15. It’s a funny old thing
  16. And the reason I say that is because design as a whole
  17. The idea of designing say a logo
  18. And getting universal approval that the logo you designed is amazing
  19. Is just not a thing
  20. The funny thing with design, or art, or any visual medium
  21. Is that it’s completely subjective
  22. Utterly subjective
  23. Some people may laud a new logo or brand as the new best thing
  24. But they’ll be just as many people out there saying it’s the worst thing they’ve ever seen
  25. That it’s a crime against human eyes
  26. You get the idea.
  27. So when we talk about awful design
  28. We’ve first got to understand what that actually is
  29. The truth is, it shifts for everybody, but there’s objectively bad design out there
  30. There’s certain things in life that aren’t usually designed well
  31. The cliched example is takeaway menus
  32. They’re usually fairly terribly designed
  33. But we’ll come back to those in a bit
  34. When you’re designing something, no matter what it is
  35. There’s a set of objective rules that sit behind design that makes things look good
  36. These rules allow you to produce design that it is aesthetically pleasing
  37. Most designers are using those rules to make things look pleasing to you
  38. There’s certain rules of layout that dictate where things should be positioned
  39. And how they should line up
  40. There’s rules for which colours work well together
  41. So when you look at a collection of colours, they don’t burn out your retinas
  42. When we’re talking about awful design
  43. Most of these rules have been ignored
  44. Or its not a skilled designer that’s created it, so they didn’t know any better
  45. Good design is important for when you’re trying to build trust with people
  46. For example, banks very rarely have poorly designed flyers, logos or websites
  47. They need to build trust with you to make sure you feel confident they can hold on to your money
  48. But what about when it hurts for design to look good?
  49. Or what about when designing something badly is actually the point?
  50. Think about when you look at a well-designed restaurant website
  51. What’s the first thing you think?
  52. I bet its the fact that you think it looks expensive
  53. This is why takeaway menus are often designed poorly
  54. Because they don’t want you to think they’re expensive
  55. This isn’t always done intentionally either, because takeaways won’t often pay for expensive skilled designers
  56. So they use somebody cheap, and get a cheap design as a result
  57. But that’s EXACTLY what they needed, to make sure people don’t take one glance at their menu and think they’re expensive
  58. That’s why if you see a nicely designed takeaway menu, you should know it’s going to be expensive
  59. Design is used to set expectations like this
  60. As I said, it’s used to set up trust, and expectations of price
  61. Ling’s Cars also use this to great effect
  62. By having a truly awful looking website
  63. But the most interesting part of their awfully designed website is
  64. But it’s ALL intentional
  65. They’ve intentionally made their website look cheap so their deals look cheaper in comparison
  66. And you can see other examples of this with the simple designs of EasyJet and Jet2’s websites – they’re simple and easy to use because they want you to know straight away that they’re cheap
  67. Design is used to position somebody in the market at a particular level
  68. And if the design of something is particularly awful
  69. It’s going to position it quite low down in the market
  70. It’s weird really
  71. That doing something badly
  72. Can actually be an intentional outcome
  73. I can’t think of many other industries like that other than the design industry
  74. And that’s why awful design is a funny old thing.
  75. OUTRO 
  76. This was Ask a Designer Anything. I’m Craig Burgess.
  77. Music featured in this episode was Night Owl by Broke for Free, Steppin by Wake, and How Exciting by Revolution Void
  78. For a line-by-line run down of this episode, go to askadesignernaything.com/ep96
  79. I’m back tomorrow for another episode of Ask a Designer Anything

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