Sunday, 11 September 2016

Bad design isn't always bad

Pizza shops, hairdressers and newsagents—they all have terrible design. But is it really terrible?


Now, I won't be standing here trying to argue that their design is actually well done or that it's any good; but I do want to argue that bad doesn't mean bad. This is the point where you re-read what you've read and come back to here just as confused as before.

I want to put across to you, that those ugly looking and badly formatted signs you see on your drunken walk home are actually less bad than you might think. If you can put you mind into that post-pint state and see through the hangover haze, these simple designs were a beacon of hope and hunger for your self-inflicted weekend disabling.

The crisp, clear monogram might work in that posh restaurant but Papyrus is king in the Chinese take-away. There is comfort in the poorly designed, the visual ignorance if you like.
Raid any draw in your kitchen and you'll find a menu laden in poor colour choices teamed with a 'printers special' * logo, you'll see at least 6 fonts and it'll be barely readable—but Chicken Korma is clear enough, is it not?

Whether the designer of these logos, leaflets and signs is aware of it or not, they are creating a comfortable bad. Imagery that is simple enough to not exclude, intimidate or offend anyone. It's certainly not good design, thus is must be bad design—but this doesn't make it bad design. Understand? No? Me neither.

A photo posted by 📸 (@skyltbild) on


Bad design isn't bad when it's in the right place. Mario's Pizza Shack doesn't need the NASA Brand Guidelines, it just needs to tell you it's going to infringe on Nintendo's copyright and sell you a reasonably priced Ham & Pineapple. It needs to be reliably shit, because you don't always fancy going to Pizza Express, sometimes you just want to boost your cholesterol on the sofa. y'know.

What I'm saying is, in some cases bad design isn't bad design; it's just badly designed which in turn makes it good design for the people looking for comfort in bad design. The people without preference in spotting good design or the people that are bad for spotting good design but made bad decisions with various good substances and now seek anything bad for them, usually under the banner of bad design—which we now know is good design because of how bad it is. Get it?

Perhaps bad design is only bad when it's not suited, it's bad not when it looks bad but when it's works badly. Let's look at it like it were maths, which perhaps is bad design on my behalf but who cares?
  • Logo made by printers + Large corporate business = bad
  • Crisp, strong logo + Large corporate business = good
  • Logo made by printers + Local takeaway = good
  • Crisp, strong logo + Local takeaway = bad (if done too well)


If you are now looking back and feel that you disagree with me, then feel free to cry in a corner. Because you can clearly see that Snoop agrees with me, and if you think Snoop is wrong then you better check yourself. Love Vincent x

* a printer's special is a logo created by a printing company. It's a derogatory term I made up today to describe a particular genre of branding. "Oh are those your new leaflets?" "Yes, they were really cheap! They even designed my logo for me." "Wow! That's a printer's special if ever I saw one"

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