Monday, October 15, 2007

Time Enough At Last

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This is titled after one of my favorite 1959 Twilight Zone episodes. It is about a man who lives a small life. He is afraid to do anything of significance. He is too afraid to ask for a raise. He is too afraid to stand up to his boss or co-workers. He is too afraid to stand up to his demanding and overbearing wife. He is too afraid to really live his life. All he wants to do is read.

He has a great love of books. He sneaks away to read all the time. That is the one activity he can use to lose himself, and, in his mind, really live.

Then one day a nuclear explosion destroys everything. He discovers he is the only one alive. On the other hand, he also discovers that he has access to all the food he will ever need and all the books he could ever read.

Unfortunately, the steps of a library, he drops his glasses. And in true Twilight Zone form, his glasses break and he ironically can no longer see. He mutters, "It's not fair. It's just not fair."

It isn't fair.

It's typical to believe that design simply decorates a message. And good design should make a company's message pretty. It is true that good design is aesthetically pleasing, but it should do more than that. Business owners are often too afraid to spend the money or see the need for professional services. And this is because many people with no real skill or training call themselves designers these days. And some design templates can be bought as a commodity.

The problem is not that business owners need to spend more, nor that their messages can be prettier. The problem is that most visual brand approaches are just too timid. And it is often too late to fix the problem once a business has established a reputation or brand. You can tell if an approach is too timid by examining these three factors:
  1. Does a business visual communication look similar to their competitors—sometimes even seems indistinguishable?
  2. Do the visuals really portray the business as worthily unique in some way?
  3. Are the visual messages really communicating what the business owner intended to communicate? Is the intended audience getting a different message or getting the message at all?
This doesn't mean design will solve all of a business's problems, but it shouldn't be a contributor either. Sometimes we really don't have all the time in the world to decide.

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