Example of bad design toilet doors with confusing signs

Good/bad design

We hope most people never even notice a lot of our work.

That might, at first, seem a strange position to take, but we believe good design is seamless — almost invisible.

Most of us have felt the frustration of trying to leave a big car park but not quite being sure where the exit is, or whether the lanes are one-way or not. Or found ourselves in a hotel room, mystified as to which is the hot tap, how the shower works or even how to turn the light on.

Every time you have to stop and think during an everyday experience, you’re experiencing bad design.

Bad design creates frustration. A poorly formatted document is more difficult to read, an ill-thought-out spreadsheet can be misunderstood. ‘Fashionable’ toilet signs in pubs and restaurants: the designer thinks they are being clever, but what have they really achieved?

And don’t get us started on Powerpoint presentations.

2020 has been a year where effective messaging is vital, but unfortunately it has, perhaps inevitably, been rushed. From signs in shop windows to official government Covid guidance, there’s been a plethora of hastily-thrown-together design which creates confusion, sometimes in critical areas.

Some shops and restaurants have so many signs up now it’s almost impossible to read them all to check you’re behaving as you should. This goes beyond frustration: it is anxiety-inducing for some, anger-inducing for others.

Whilst we accept it’s been a fast-moving situation, we do believe the government has got the design wrong. Messages and delivery have changed frequently, different government departments are putting out their own announcements, almost with their own brands. A national crisis is a time for consistently delivering simple, clear messages.

Perhaps all businesses should have received templates for all Covid-related messaging, so as soon as you entered their premises, it was very clear from a single source what you have to do. We’ve seen this to a certain extent with the ‘check-in’ QR codes which pubs, cafes and restaurants are displaying, but we’d like to have seen it taken further. There should be a government-issued Covid brand: colours, fonts, styles, even wording.

Good design eliminates confusion. It means you don’t have to make decisions on things you shouldn’t have to make a decision on. Good design means you can always find your way out of the car park; you always go into the right bathroom. It means you aren’t left wondering what size coffee you’re ordering.

But it goes beyond even that. Branding aligns companies with the right markets, the right customers. You should be able to tell, at a glance, whether a business is the right fit for you. Is it budget, or luxury? Is it a place to go for bargains, or to get the royal treatment? Does the brand align with your values and beliefs, will it help you create the lifestyle you crave?

Good design can tell you all that in the glance of an eye.

It’s why we ask ourselves what the end-user wants and needs. We don’t begin any work until we’ve really got under the hood of the business we’re helping: not just what you do, but why you do it. How will updating a brand improve your connection with your customers? How will the user guide take away the stress of learning something new? How will the signs help people to navigate seamlessly through a complicated building?

We ask these questions, no matter the brief or size of the project.

5 minute read

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