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Dec 03, 2006



Great man.

The New York postcards thing - where's that from? Really good.


Lovely post.

I wouldn't call it a disease, it makes you sound like you're ill. I'd call it a healthy obsession.

See also Peter Blake, Paul Smith, Francis Bacon. You're up there with the greats....

Brad Brooks

Designers, does that sound familiar?

Yes, oh yes, oh God, yes. I've printed this out to show my wife because she's positive I'm the only one like this.

Great post, Ben...


I'm with you brothers (picture fist held at shoulder height).


Love it, great post, isn't it brilliant when you read something that strikes such a chord with you. I have this disease/obsession, it's good to hear other do to.

Paul H. Colman

Is it infectious? Kerning now bugs the hell out of me.

(Great post my friend.)

here be simon

As I was once told if you find a job you love you'll never have to work again. I'm not a designer, but I understand and recognise that passion. I salute you, sir.


A George Michael concert? I'm beginning to have serious doubts about you, my friend.


Okay, here's a sweeping statement for you.

On the grounds of raw passion, the best blog post I've read ... like, ever.

Mike Towers

The best 'post' i've seen and read this year.

1. This is something for my wife to read also - she thinks I was mad this weekend for calling the 'top shop' carrier disgusting. (Although she sgrees that GAP's was far nicer!)

2. Disease, Obsession aren't really the correct words to describe this mindset. I think 'Way of Life' is more applicable.

matt even

great post.

Rob Mortimer

But I do that, and im not a designer!

Rob Mortimer

But I do that, and im not a designer!

Much of my vinyl collection is made up of stuff with nice covers. Oh and nicely designed 7" records.

Ive lost count of the times I have bought something for the great packaging...


Nice bit of wood type. Did you ever go to Naylor's Emporium? Whatever happended to it?


I love this.

I'm slightly envious of the 'design disease'. It feels like there's a bit of it lurking in me somewhere, but It's something that has always been suppressed or subsumed by other drives - particularly my fear of being swamped by clutter.

I guess this what you mean about your fascination with why for designers, this is something that takes hold of you.


I love this.

I'm slightly envious of the 'design disease'. It feels like there's a bit of it lurking in me somewhere, but It's something that has always been suppressed or subsumed by other drives - particularly my fear of being swamped by clutter.

I guess this what you mean about your fascination with why for designers, this is something that takes hold of you.


oh my, yes indeedy


are you saying I'm a designer? how dare you.

brilliant post. if no-one else nominates you for post of the month then I will.


Please don't Russell, he might win, then we'll never hear the end of it. It'll be like Radio 4 all over again.


brilliant! It worth to keep this great hobby in our entire life.
That's why we're here.


I always tell my students obsession about typography is a good thing. The Christmas towel (?) looks like Cooper Black (yea Oz!). And what else have you got lurking in those type cases, huh???


Absolutely brilliant post Ben; it really conveys your enthusiasm for design.

However, I can't help but wonder just what your flat/house looks like after this post..

Kevin Steele

Very entertaining.

Eventually though, you will stop bragging about choosing products just because they have a smartly designed label or cover, because you will find that there are many very crappy products and books hiding behind fashionable packaging. A gold plated turd is still a turd.

I love going into my favourite design bookstores but I have to wade through a lot of really attractive overpriced books filled with trendy design porn and other style wanking to find the books I actually want to read or look at again.

That pencil piece is awesome, though.


Brad, Matt, Paul, Simon, miscmash, Mike, matt, Helen, Mat, Will - thank you very much.

David - Haha I was waiting for someone to mention that. Gotta love a bit of George.

Richard - I've never heard of Naylor's Emporium? Pray tell.

russell - I should have posted it last Thursday shouldn't I?

Kevin - I'm not bragging about choosing products by their packaging design. I'm not even saying it's a good thing. I'm just saying that's what it's like.


Great post.




Brilliant post. Design Disease IS a good title.

Is this where the twelve step program meets?

I'm glad I'm not the only one.
I can't read through important information if it has typos, bad folds, cheap paper, bad color combinations or uses Gill Sans. I cover my eyes when presented with ugly printed material. Yes, even in front of clients. I hold sheets of cheap paper at a distance using only two fingernails so it doesn't touch my skin.

I also collect interesting beverage containers.


My memory is a bit cloudy but as I remeber Naylor's is/was a London printer of long standing who found themselves with much loved but redundant letterpress stuff. Masses of it. So they opened up a shop, Naylor's Emporium. Can't even remember how we found out about it, but me and my mate Perry strotted off down the London for a visit and blew our budget on wood type and various printed ephemera (all yet to be blogged).

Sounds too good to be true doesn't it?

Unfortunately, the shop was short lived and stock was moved to the printer's premises then disappeared.

Perhaps it was really all a kind of letterpress Brigadoon, only appearing once every hundred years.

Yeh OK, unlikely. Perhaps someone else out there know something more.


Shocking spelling in that comment. That really bugs me when I do that. Must check before posting.

Anyway Ben, do you know Monsters Inc? There's that scene where Randall beats the Scare Record for the first time only to have it snatched away again when Sully gets a slumber party. Well, I thought I was doing quite well with 26 comments on my Bruno Maag post but I'm just a Randall to your Sully. Damn you.

And I did it to myself too. Damn me!


Hahahaha Paul Colman is the King of Comments round here.


Colman is king of comments. My best so far is 7.

Perhaps that's a sign I need to post something controversial, a la Adliterate.


Totally agree...I always feel like such a snob when I'm with my "non designer" friends because they think I point the tracking of the words on the menu out to sound like a smart ass but what they don't understand is that I can't NOT point it out. Anyway this post made me think of Paul Elliman and of his "found" type family that he is currently creating http://www.fontshop.com/virtual/fssf/images/products/fuse/bits.gif that is an image of it. Basically it consists of found forms that resemble typography and then have been flattened to vector form to create an even greater typographic feel/ relationship. REALLY interesting stuff.


I once saw a local (Malaysian) movie where they designed a mock poster supposedly for a magazine launching in the movie. The design was horrible. The font is Comic Sans, and the worst thing is the only 'design'y thing they did with it was apply some 'drop shadow'. The photos are badly assembled, some of them are of bad quality and pixelated, and I believe the ad agency (if they ever hired one) they paid to do the magazine did not bother to edit much of the pics. THEY FEATHERED THE EDGES ! That was how observant I was even though the scene in the movie showing the mag was only about 3 minutes. I fidgeted the whole way in the movie thinking how on earth they could let that happen.

And oh, I was a designer for only two years then had to serve as a Change Manager for the company who offered me scholarship. It was the hardest choice I had to do, leaving the job I love. But the designer side of me still runs in my vein.

Dani Nordin

So, so true. I've been choosing wine by its label for years. It's never failed me, either.


Thank you. Totally enjoyable! I really like the pencil case. When I was young, I would sit at my bedroom desk and make believe I was a graphic designer.


You are not alone, friend.



I'd have to say that I am PROUD to have this disease! (And am happy to know that I'm not the only one.)

G reg

Is it a disease to like the oddball kerning, the random spacing and the bad layout to keep the design universe in ba lance?

Christina Bradshaw

I couldn't have written that better myself...

But you forgot to address the dissection of restaurant menus...

I too, am ill with this disease!!...

ricci coughlan

Lovely post :) My father chose to spell my name like this simply because he liked it aesthetically, thats where the ball started rolling for me I think. Buying wine by the label is always a winner in my experience too, trade secret! Good to know i'm not alone with this wonderful affliction.


I too wake up ill every morning with this life threataning disease of misuesed and soiled design. I NEED A DOCTOR! remedy please!(cough,plurff)

_theo aka design GOD


....very interesting. I suffer from this daily. It's the worst when I'm under
the weather...what may start off as a "normal" headache can easily become a
terrific headache as mismatched disjunctive design and color from my pantry
to the magazines, books, and whatever else's in my house attack me!

_Theo AKA design GOD

doggystyle 20

What's kerning?

adam corkett

i dont think just having these traits makes you a designer, i think really you cant be a designer until these things are explored and used, and i dont think you can be a great designer until the ideas and projects you create in these explorations are honed and seasoned over many years, matured like a fine wine. which is probably why i am neither of these things. i see myself as someone who is always playing with ideas and the everyday world just helps to give me these ideas. when it comes to type, i quite like to break things like the kerning and the weight, and hell even moreso the form of the type itself. i think my biggest trait is pens, i am a cleptomaniac, pens lighters, key rings, small things in general work their way into my pockets, somedays i have been asked to turn out my pockets at work to count my booty, a total of 23 biros and pencils, which i was told was 1.why nobody could ever write telephone messages down, and 2. why it probably cost a stupid amount in stationary. so i think these traits are completely sub conscious and something to be proud of!


Great post. Love it. Completely understand all this. I thought my "symptoms" were just me being weird but hey...what a fabulous way to live a life of the designer. Thanks.


Great read. One question...can I get disability pay?


I ALSO knew I wanted to be a designer from the age of 13! And from a career test as well! I wonder if everyone got that same answer...nawh. It was fate.


Copywriters have this type of problem, but with words (obviously). Everything, everywhere, requires editing.

Sometimes I have to go lie down in a dark room when I've seen too much pointless, badly-written information at once.


Spot on -- I sent this to my husband, so he can begin to understand why I trip out on seemingly random things when we're out and about. ;)


It is like: calling yourself 'bold' and your boyfriend 'italic' (because he is twices as thin as yourself and italian) and laughing for three days about it. And no one else understands.


I had the disease growing up too. At a very early age i would cut images of rock stars and make my own books and come up with headines in my very own type treatment. My dad would get so mad because my math grades were not very good, but when introduced to this crazy, passionate design world, i knew EXACTLY what I was meant to do! Some people call me crazy, others say anal, but this disease is my very own and i am happy and proud to be passioante about making things beautiful and interesting in every aspect of my life, not just for my clients. Let's face it, the whole world thinks that designers are cool and we are because we can take the oridinary and make it extraordinary. Live on! Design on!

Isabel Gatuslao



You are *so* not alone. MY girlfriend is a designer and she can het really pissed off about bad spacing :) I've caught the disease as well: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeroenjeroen/tags/typography/


Not sure how I missed this first time round. But I've got it now. It's awesome. Nothing else to add. Because I don't think I have the disease. I know people who have though and have sent it to them all.


God bless the designer that cares.


How recognizable. I'm also known for walking out of fancy restaurants because the menu was set in Comic Sans, and for nearly causing accidents when pointing out that the lettering on that big truck in front of us is set in Helvetica, and why that's nicer than that other truck over there which uses Arial.

Mike Koppa

I moved from the metropolis to a tiny rural community two and a half years ago because of this very disease. I noticed an immediate relief from all of the poorly designed billboards, ads, and signs that used to bother me ALL THE TIME. So, my advice to those who are serious about findng the cure to this disease is to get out of the city so that you can CHOOSE AND CONTROL your visual stimulation. It's a shame how much visual pollution is out there, and how many people suffer unknowingly and subconsciously from all of the crap and clutter. You don't need to be a designer to have this disease, but you need to be a designer to understand it and realize that you suffer from it.

Cheers to the author of this post.


yes, yes, absolutely yes. this is a quintessential definition of how a graphic designer sees the world.


brilliant post, really. can there be anything more painful than the wrong font? I suppose only type that is not properly set....?

really wonderful.

Mad Munkey

You'd give the Dr. a Pantone color number when they ask about the color of your phlegm when you have a sinus infection too. *note - the dr. doesn't know what that is... lol*

Wonderful post.

Eric N.

Ok, ok... I'm afflicted.

When I drive behind our cities Public Transportation TheBus, they have a URL on their bumper. THEY DO NOT KERN THE URL! :(

It always bothers me.

I thought I was the only one who thought like this.


To my fellow inflicted,
Until theres a cure, theres always more...
Awesome post, If anyone is interested in trading hi-res photos or scans of their letter collections (3 dimensional letters), I have a dozen or so sets of plastic, wood & foam letters. Seems like you guys have different sources and mfgrs on that side of the pond. Most of mine are childrens toys from US retailers, but I like em all. Email me at steveoatsteveodot tv.


Great post and nicely put! If it is a disease I hope they never find a cure, I'm having too much fun being sick.

~ Aissa


I think disigner's disease is some kind of OCD. I think the same kind of things all the time, as well as rearrange the kitchen furniture to be symmetrical. It goes hand in hand.


Reminds me of Katamari Disease: the desire to roll everything up in the real world.


Great post. You are, of course, familiar with this, no?


Chris Palmieri

At the heard of this disease is the fact that design sensitivity helps us understand more about what something means from the way it looks, and quickly judge it's potential value before making a commitment.

This doesn't mean that designers always go for the bar of soap with the better kerned logotype, in fact, I'm sure a lot of designers can identify with a certain gag reflex when they find things that are overdesigned to hide unauthenticity or lack of substance.

Design can tell you a lot about where something came from, who is responsible for it, how much this person cared about it, does it have history, etc.

The design disease can be found in non-designers also because it's a result of design literacy, or more generally, visual literacy, which certainly doesn't require being a designer.


This is fantastic.

I think what you do - if you're lucky enough to do something you love - becomes the dominant metaphor through which you parse all experiences.

It's lovely to get a glimpse through yours.


do i have another brother i've never met? lovely blog, thanks


Carlo Grossi

great, I deeply agree with you about how irritating some layouts can be. Go ahead, I'll follow your blog


HA! Guilty as charged. If I was in a shop and saw a wine bottle with DIN on the label, I'd pick it up in a heartbeat. You know you've got this disease really bad when you start thinking about how the doorknob to your flat is at the wrong height and why the mailbox hinge opens a certain way. Scary!

MSG Quixo

Bless you. Absolutely brilliant. You will, then understand why I've had to start a campaign to save everyone in Los Angeles from this:




Yep, very recognizable. Only I decided one day to specifically DISorganize my cd collection, books, etc. because maintaining the correct order only fueled the obsession to organize about everything in a similar fashion. As a result, my life is now almost perfectly disorganized. Clothes piled up in a random messy order, books pseudo-casually on the bookshelves, cd's carefully unsorted, be it by colour, genre, artist or whatever. Can't have the same stuff on my bread every day for just the same reasons. Very funny to see the opposite end, and eerily familiar. Wish you well! Get better soon! (NOT!)


I am diseased. So my girlfriend says. She would like us to go out for a meal without it taking 30 minutes to pick something. I don't see the starters I see the font, alignment, spacing and then the food. She doesn't understand. I am glad there are others out there. This makes me feel better. Is there a meeting we can go to? Is it curable. Do I have to get a new occupation to rid myself of this infliction that I and others call...DESIGN!!


All kerning aside, "NO PARKING EXCEPT FOR PAYING" means what, exactly?

"WAY OUT", "EXIT" and "SORTIE" are useless when hidden by an underslung concrete beam in a dark parking garage or are parallel to the traffic flow. More signs are obviated by bad placement or bad English than by bad kerning.


wow. OCD displays in mysterious ways


I am told by friends and family that it's an obsession. I'm told by fellow designer friends that it's perfectly normal. And strangers just smile, nod and walk away quickly ;-)

I think TRUE designers are born with this, and I'm so glad that I'm one of them. It means I strive over the fine details that really makes something work. (Although it also means that shoddy store signs and their nasty typefaces and bad kerning make me cringe every single time)

I sympathise with Wingnut's comment - I think we need a 'support group' for the near-OCD tendencies we all have. LOL ;-)

and re: Rock's comment on the signs - the architect should design a parking garage allowing space for clear signage. That's good design. And the signage designers should design a sign in correct language, and easy to read. Design is the solution to a problem - hence the bad placement of a sign is a bad design solution to the problem.

P.S. I would have chosen that bottle of wine too - great label!! The crazy thing with me is, I don't even LIKE wine - I make my fiance buy bottles with good designs, because having poor ones in my kitchen would bother me, even though I don't drink it...

Vicki Smith

You forgot the use of the foot mark for an apostrophe! Gads, that just drives me crazy!
And, it's everywhere (in Corp. logos, signage, etc.) The powers to be should have talked with true designers and typographers before designing the keyboard!

Bless you, I enjoyed this site immensely!

Todd Kalhar

Oh THANK YOU! My family and friends think I'm absolutely nuts because I can't stop noting things like this ... too funny! Now if only I could use my powers of observation for good ...


I just about melted when I saw that drawer of type.

A Skeptic

Hmm, there is a suggestion that this is an inner aesthetic that is inherent, not learned. But do these universal rules of style and type apply to say Chinese writing? Or is it just someone obsessed with something they've learned and which they now think is an inner knowledge?


There is no cure.

Thankfully. ;)


Fabulous post. I want that box of letters.

not a designer

I liked this until the point where I saw "If you're lucky you're friends and family will pick up on this and if you're lucky you'll get things like this for Christmas". Misusing "you're" and "your" are as bad as not kerning properly.


I would say you have Typographer's Syndrome and not Designer's Desease. As a fellow sufferer I can recognize the disease when I spot it...

alison francis

i wish i could have that johnson banks letter pile on my bookcase. Wonder if i could purchase it from somewhere


Hey! I came across this (your) article today in Creative Review. I almost bought the whole magazine JUST for it (quite expensive despite being advertised half price) but I thought, hmm, Google first? And what do you know? I have it in full! For FREE!
And it's such a wonderful article.


Alison, you can buy them direct from the johnsonbanks website. A bargain at £12.50 plus p+p.

Follow this link and click on shopping: http://www.johnsonbanks.co.uk/


We love printing typography



Oh, Gosh! We are all living designers cliches.
Whether there's a medicine for this disease, I reject. :)


Great blog.When I got married I refused to wear a big white frock simply because I love colour so much. (Of course I had to make sure the shade matched the invitations I had designed too)
The emotional side of Graphic Design is rarely touched upon these days, often reserved as a privilege for the field of Fine Art. What moves us, inspires and incites us is often inexplainable, but its great to see that others go through exactly the same thing.
We are not alone.


LOVE your post!! I blogged it too!


Before I got a chance to read this I was on the phone scrolling down looking at the pictures because that's what you do before you read any text on a web page when you have this disease. Distracted from my phone call, I started to get mad that you'd post an image like "York" b/c of the horrific letter spacing. Glad I took time to read it. Great post.


Wonderful post, just came across your blog the other day so going through some old posts and this is one of the best.

Vegas Plane

Never a truer word spoken: vive le design


This is the perfect article to show all those boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives hwo think you're mad.

I currently can't watch several TV programs because of this 'disease' (the title sequences are so horrific!)


Erm ..... yes, agree with all ...... am currently in Design Disease rehab ......

DD !


My friends think I'm insane (although I've referred to myself as a design snob...) because I do pretty much everything you listed above and then some — I'm like the geezer that yells at his TV except I yell at bad design...lol. I can't walk down the street without guessing what font is being used on a sign and why, who thought of that colour scheme, what the thought process was behind that ad campaign, etc. The York pic pained me so..So glad I'm not the only one. =)


Oh gods...don't get me started. I am driven to absolute distraction by the horror of billboards and road signs...

Ever see those park and ride signs with a tree beside a picnic table? And the tree is leaning diagonally towards the picnic table? "Pull over here and a tree will fall on your head" WHY IS THE TREE LEANING!?! WHY?!?



Bad Design and Bad Typography has totally ruined several outings. Especially going out and looking at fliers at bars!

Some people don't get it. Like many game art students *glare* lol.

You'll even rip things out of magazines and go show people and ask why would someone DO such a thing?! and they will look at you as if you've gone positively mad!



My husband points out, I don't read magazines, I proof them :)

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