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Oct 29, 2006



Completely empathise with your view here, as will most of your graphic design readership I expect. But inevitably, I expect this could strike some people as being a bit on the 'anal' side so to speak - yunno, those 'process' types! ;-) Personally, I think I could write a whole book on 'powerpoint visual insensitivity' within the broader branding field, but anyway, to my key point ..

Rather like the 'simplicity vs complexity' issue that has popped up on this blog and others from time-to-time, your example seems to impinge on a 'perfection vs imperfection' (or structure vs chaos) type issue. Where, because signage generally lends itself to a 'structuralist' (or perfectionist) assumption, it somehow looks wrong (or annoying) when this isn’t the case. At the other end of a spectrum there has - as you subsequent post illustrates - been a strong design trend towards ‘keeping it real’ recently, which has rekindled our appreciation of raw, ‘imperfect’ human handwriting. Clearly Russell’s presentations make good use of this (isn’t it funny how handwriting somehow makes a point or quote seem more spontaneous, creative, and credible now, whereas in the past people sought the trust and authority of typewriters and computers?)

To bring this point home then, if we view ‘perfection and imperfection’ as a kind of continuum, is there an optimal point, or must it be one or the another? Your redesign of the retail signage is clearly about optimal spacing, perfect alignment etc. But sometimes the limitation of this, is that unless everything is ‘perfect’ (i.e. signage across the whole high street) it’s somehow forever annoying. Whereas a more ‘mash up’ approach (i.e. Camden High Street) succeeds because it sets out to be ‘imperfect’ by way of design. Interesting, I’ve noticed a lot of magazine fonts in lifestyle magazines recently that almost make a point of being ‘imperfect’, using ‘primitive’ fonts, harsh highlighting of key points etc. In this sense, it’s almost like an ‘organised chaos’ – and thus a middleground perhaps? Sorry if I’m making an over theoretical point about all of this - just a random thought I thought I’d throw in (imperfect of course!). In which case, perhaps there’s some ‘proper’ graphic design theory out there that could build on this?

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