Have a Platypustastic New Year!

I have been making New Year’s resolutions on this site since we started doing this in 2009. And I’ve accomplished some amazing things based on past resolutions: I threw out that old, disgusting Tupperware in 2010, and I have not feathered an edge in months.

With that, here are some promises Shea and I make to you for 2012:

  1. We will learn about platypuses—web-footed, venomous, egg-laying mammals that they are.
  2. We will embrace new media. Learn about it. Talk about it. Use it.
  3. To my wife’s chagrin, I will at least triple the size of my collection of Major League Baseball ice cream sundae helmets.
  4. We will get a pet platypus.
  5. Shea will finally call Cy Sperling to see what can be done.
  6. We will not place photos in compositions at random angles (and certainly not with drop shadows).
  7. We will introduce a new word to the English lexicon: platypustastic.
  8. We will use that extra day in February to its fullest potential.
  9. We will become huge hockey fans. I will root for the Philadelphia Flyers because I grew up in Philadelphia and I am still connected to that community through family and frequent visits. Shea will root for the Montreal Canadiens because they have the most championships and that’s how he picks his teams.
  10. We will start a podcast. A platypustastic podcast.

Happy new year!


Starbursts: Like Fireworks, But More Annoying

Since today is the Fourth of July in the United States (not sure what the date is in other countries), I feel I should mention that I love fireworks. Even if I don’t totally understand the point, I figure anything that is an excuse for a cookout and that can cause more than 400 people to show up at a Florida Marlins game has to be good for something.

However, when it comes to graphic design, the closest counterparts to fireworks are starbursts, which cause me to do what my son did the first time he experienced fireworks: burst into tears.

Whenever I make some unequivocal statement about what is good design and what is bad design, people come to me with arguments to the contrary. (“I use Comic Sans because I want people to equate my interpretive site with yard sales and take-out menus.”)

With that in mind, let me make this unequivocal statement: Starbursts are bad graphic design. Even if your product is FREE! or NEW! or simply AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME!, the starburst is the bold, blinking, animated gif of graphic design. The person who uses starbursts in design is the same person who emails you in all caps. Whatever reason a person has for using a starburst, I can assure you there’s a better solution.

I found this brochure in a rack at a highway-side restaurant in Wyoming. There are a lot of things wrong with it from a design perspective. It uses clip art, glowing drop shadows, random angles, roughly 8,000 fonts in every possible style, and a color palette loosely described as “all of them.” (It’s reminiscent of this design advice that Friend of IBD Matthew Greuel heard recently and shared on our Facebook page: “Keep adding fonts until the viewer vomits…then start adding colors….”)

Even amidst all that chaos, what stands out most is that it looks like the brochure was attacked by a pack of eight-year-olds wielding yellow paintball guns. I can’t be certain of this, but I’d guess that the person who designed this brochure has a background in producing late-night infomercials.

Of course, if you’ve read this far, you’re likely of a similar mind and the larger problem is what to do with that client (or boss) who asks for starbursts. This is your opportunity to politely resist and educate your client (or boss) about the more subtle and elegant ways of drawing attention to important information without resorting to the visual equivalent of punching your audience in the face. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as changing the color, size, or line thickness of your type, or possibly altering the composition to prominently feature important elements at the top of a page or within a large amount of white space. (There are lots of solutions, and all of them are better than starbursts.)

In the end, the things that make starbursts so terrible are what make fireworks so great: They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, and they’re pointless.

Happy Fourth of July!

Graphic Design Resolutions for a New Decade

A decade of poor letterspacing is coming to an end!

For the last 10 years, the back-to-back zeroes in the years 2000–2009 have wreaked havoc on typographic design, their rounded forms making those numerals look too far apart unless consciously kerned by an attentive typographer. To celebrate the dawn of a new typographic decade, featuring a much more visually appealing “01” character combination, it’s time for some graphic design resolutions!

Since I have already made my resolution for 2010 (I resolve to figure out what’s in that Tupperware container in the fridge at my office) and also because I am an insufferable jerk, I thought I’d propose some resolutions for graphic designers in general. Here we go:

  1. I will not use eyeballs or globes in logo designs.
  2. I will spell “a lot” as two words.
  3. I will stop with the drop shadows already. (Guilty as charged.)
  4. I will use a single space after periods, an em-dash (—) instead of two hyphens (–), and an ellipsis (…) instead of three periods (…).please
  5. I will not use quotes for emphasis (pictured).
  6. I will throw away that clip art CD.
  7. I will travel to Jupiter with John Lithgow to rendezvous with a giant, creepy baby and try to figure out what happened to HAL 9000. (Roy Scheider only.)
  8. I will not put auto-play audio or video on my website.
  9. I will not underline text on my website unless it’s a link.
  10. I will stop being such a nerd. (I make this resolution every year. It hasn’t worked yet.)

To all of our readers who have made writing this blog so much fun this year, happy holidays, happy new year, and thank you. See you in 2010!