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Design Bloopers: This Ad Gives Me A Headache

This post is about a major design blooper, and this one touches on typography.

Noticing design bloopers is one of my favorite pastimes! (Ask anyone who lives with me).

I especially enjoy seeing major corporations make massively expensive design mistakes: it’s a good reminder that good and bad design are within reach of all of us (and sometimes even the big guys reach for bad design).

brand marketing lessons from a Bayer design blooperThis design blooper is this almost-unreadable ad for Bayer Low-Dose Aspirin. I pulled this sample from a major national magazine.

They Paid A Copywriter, Then Made The Words Invisible

I don’t know the story behind this ad, but I can’t imagine the copywriters were happy with how it turned out. They researched a long list of symptoms that aspirin can prevent. They wrote them out, spell checked them, and handed them over.

Then someone set up a photo shoot, and put together a design with all the elements. At some point, a decision was made to use a yellow background (maybe to match the aspirin bottle color?).

This ad is especially bad because the demographic group they are trying to reach – middle-aged people who are concerned about staying healthy – often struggles with failing eyesight. Running white type on a yellow background makes this ad very difficult to decipher.

How You Can Avoid This Mistake

You can avoid making websites, ads, flyers and other materials that are almost impossible to read.

Always create the most contrast possible by using dark text on a light ground.

Remember, you want your marketing messages to be read. If you make them difficult to see, people won’t take the time to puzzle through your carefully written (but too-hard-to-read) words.

So take two doses of high-contrast type, and call me in the morning. (But not too early).

It’s the prescription for healthy, readable marketing materials.

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is an online educator, author, keynote speaker, and the founder of BIG Brand System. Read reviews of the tools used to run this site and business.

Pamela Wilson

I want to help you take the next step. Pick your free workshop topic and let’s do this!

12 thoughts on “Design Bloopers: This Ad Gives Me A Headache”

  1. Perhaps they should have called that 82 reasons why he’s on an 81mg aspirin regime a day!!

    Takes awful to a new level, amazed you found such a g00d (bad) example!

  2. A great series!!

    I do the same, not only looking for design errors, but things that make the product or web site more difficult to use than it needs to be.

    I am looking forward to more!


  3. In general, I don’t like ads, but when I do come across one that is well crafted, creative, unique and humorous I have a tendency to study the details as I would a fine piece of art because I find it enjoyable. Color me funny.

    • Dave, great minds think alike. I’m with you: it’s a sneaky attempt to sell aspirin!

      Stacey, I’ve seen those sites, too. Scary!

      Suzi, if you come across any good examples, feel free to send them my way and we’ll share them here.

      And Bette, I agree: really good ads can be quite inspiring. This ad inspires me to learn from its mistakes!

  4. I believe I learned the lesson in high school art class: Reverse (white) type on yellow background equals headache. You nailed it! The designer, art director, account executive and the clients should be called out on this one.

  5. I have to agree with Dave – and if it wouldn’t be true, it would even be funny. They do that to actually make you feel the headache when you are trying to read it. I swear. Disgusting.

  6. How interesting. I’ve never cared for Verdana, but it’s everywhere!?! Plus, when see wanted to go with a sans serif font, my web-design mentor always favored Verdana for web-based work.

    I used it heavily for my own site, but now I’ve been liberated, and I free to go my own way – Hurray!!!

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