This piece came in the mail a while back and I saved it to my design bloopers folder to share with you.
I am sad to say it was soliciting donations for a college design program. (Details have been obscured to protect the innocent).
Maybe they’re using reverse psychology. When they sent out a piece like this, maybe what they were really trying to say is, “support our design program, because clearly we have a lot to learn.”
(In fairness, I think the piece was done by a student. I would be embarrassed to share some of my student work. I’ve created plenty of bloopers over the years, too. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way!)
In the spirit of learning, let’s talk about why it doesn’t work.
Type Should “Hang Together”
One of the goals of good typesetting is to group information in a way that makes it easy to understand. The most glaring mistake in this design was the decision to separate each sentence into a white box and place the white boxes on a dark ground.
The effect of this treatment is to stop the reader at the end of each line and send them hunting for the next box. Inside the box they have to find the line they’re supposed to read next.
This is way too much work to expect of your audience. They’re being asked to donate, and shouldn’t have to work so hard to extract that message.
The Ransom Note Effect
Even worse, the overall feel of the piece is one of a ransom note, and this is an unfortunate treatment to use for a solicitation for donations. Donors want to know:
- Am I appreciated?
- Will my money go to a good cause?
- How can I participate beyond donating money?
All of that information was in the written copy, but I’ll bet many donors never got beyond the appearance of the piece to read it. Don’t let your design get in the way of your message.
Shoddy Production Values
The piece looks like it was created on a color copier. There’s no harm in that, but it wasn’t trimmed correctly, so there’s a white strip showing along the right side that shouldn’t be there.
Color copiers don’t handle large blocks of color well, and on this piece there are visible streaks where the copier didn’t print the background color evenly.
When designing something for print, you must take the limitations of the machine you’ll use to reproduce it into account.
And even if you use a lowly copier, put care into the final product. Otherwise it looks like you don’t care.
I Didn’t Donate
I’ll bet you’re not surprised to hear I didn’t donate. I didn’t want to respond to this particular piece, because institutions gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns by the response they get. If I’d donated after receiving this piece, they may have created more campaigns that looked like this, and I didn’t want that to happen!
How about you? Have you seen a design blooper lately? Created one yourself? Tell me about it in the comments!