Thoughts on design discourse – the Hillary logo Kerfuffle of 2015.

A plea for more civil discourse on design.

There’s been quite the kerfuffle surrounding logos in the past two weeks. Both, notably, were created by Pentagram. What’s alarming here is not the logos or websites that were designed, it’s the public behavior of designers that surprises me. A lot of the discussion does not hold up to the desires I hear many designers discuss when it comes to clients and employers.

The effects of tearing down a design publicly.

When you tear down a design, and you do it publicly be aware of the full impact. There’s a difference between constructive criticism and absent minded abuse. We live in an age where a not so well thought out tweet can end up being quoted on Mashable as evidence of an editorial viewpoint. Whether or not that’s good practice for journalism doesn’t really matter, it sends a message to the public about design. That message is that your own gut reaction to a solution is all that really matters when evaluating design.

Anyone who’s ever had to pitch work to a client or employer knows there’s far more to it than that. We inform, we persuade we argue. We know that there’s far more that goes into a design than just plunking something down on a page that looks good. We ask non-designers to understand these concepts and processes when they make a decision. We ask them to weigh a multitude of factors before making a decision. When you take to twitter to tear down a design, any design, before it’s had a chance to prove itself you are making a liar out of every designer whose told a client to take a harder look at a design instead of dismissing it out of hand.

Creative critique among peers vs. our public voice.

It’s one thing to abuse someones work amongst the company of other designers, it’s another thing to take that comment to twitter or your own blog. Yes, there are really logos out there that are just terrible. The truth we all hide from is that sometimes those ugly logos and websites actually get the job done. How often is that because a designer did everything in their power to ensure their work was successful for their client or employer?

I, like so many other designers, was told early on “Don’t show me what you like. Show me what works.” I would argue that we need to raise the level of our online discourse to meet this standard. Did it work? Did it accomplish the thing the client wanted it too? It’s not always a cut and dry answer. Effectiveness can be disputed depending on how you look at the data. That’s a discussion that when held in the public elevates design and leaves room for disagreement and critique. Leave the bashing of the clip art penguin your clients nephew thought would make a good logo between you and your desk mate. Speaking privately amongst designers I’d still urge a little more empathy, but it’s far less dangerous to say “Boy, that sucks” in closed company than it is to do it in public, especially regarding more high profile examples of design. Because let’s be honest, sometimes it does just plain suck. The key is knowing when your discussion hurts the profession, and your own interests and when it doesn’t. I’m trusting in your professionalism to know when that’s appropriate to discuss and where.