Sunday, September 14, 2008

Everybody's a critic

Recently, Sooy + Co. received an email with a blistering criticism about a branding project we completed for a public school system:
Message : How dare you call Lorain City Schools new clip art a logo. What did you do a Google search and find some stupid hand clip and then make up the color story. How dare you make Lorain the laughing stock of our County. We are smart enough to know good design, this isn't an example of it. Shame on you for not having the professional integrity to actually design something.
Did it offend us? No, we had a good laugh over it, and our staff discussed how to respond. With proper grammar, of course.

Perhaps some people would prefer the old logo that resembles paper dolls, sandwiched between an image of a light house and what appeared to be two-color toothpaste squeezed from a tube. Seriously. We think our solution is a new take on an old cliché.

Some possible responses we considered:
"Why yes, we were in a hurry and all we had time for was a quick Google search for stupid hand clip. Is that bad?"

"You're right. Our branding process is designed with the possible outcome of creating laughing stocks, but only when the creative brief calls for it. We must have missed the mark. Or do you mean la vache qui ri?"

"We all missed the professional integrity classes in college due to a quarter-to semester-change. Thank you for pointing out the flaw in our education, we are looking into a distance learning class in order to make it up."
With the democratization of design comes the democratization of drive-by design criticism.

Drive-by design criticism is defined as:
"Drive-by criticism is a reaction to an observation or experience, whereby the uninformed renders an opinion about something they know nothing about."
It can be rephrased as "I don't know what I like until I see it, and I know I don't like that."

On the other hand, design critique (or professional design criticism) is an exercise by students or design professionals to review and evaluate a design solution based on any number of criteria, such as form to function, the three core elements of visual design: contrast, balance and unity, appropriateness of solution to problem, and usability. Among other criteria, of course.

The individual sharing their criticism with us had no idea what the design brief called for, the client's objectives, or why we chose red, green and white to represent diversity instead of brown, beige and red.

Drive-by design criticism is a corollary to the General Theory of Design: "Design consists of creating things for clients who may not know what they want, until they see what you've done, then they know exactly what they want, but it's not what you did."

No, we don't use Google to search for clip art. We're professionals, with design degrees. We don't skeet shoot in the dark, nor do we allow our clients do so. We accept, as should any professional design firm, valid and well-informed design critique. But we really can't figure out what inspires a rant like we received.

To our drive-by critic: Thanks for writing. We're sorry that you were having a bad day, and hope that things are looking up for you.

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