ObservationLiz Cormack

Utility versus Futility

ObservationLiz Cormack

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!

Graduated with a B.A. in Communication Design from Emerson College. Studied Product Design in Startup Insitute Boston's inaugural class. Marketing Manager at The Tap Lab, a mobile gaming startup focused on location & augmented reality. Founder of Colab Boston, an AIGA Design for Good partner. Raised overseas, uncomfortable with familiarity, lover of live music, skiing, Bourbon Ales, black coffee and weird food. Current favorite topics: The Internet of Things, serious games, data visualization and epic burgers.