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Design? Don’t Make Me LOL

Some years ago I read in the D&AD Annual Awards book mention that (to simplify) ‘there was some good graphic design out there, but not much sign of humour.’ The words struck at the time, I suspect I also thought “guilty as charged.”

Not so long ago I attended a design networking event and to be honest, on the surface we could have been at a wake. Even today there is the tendency towards ‘design mafia’ attire, black with err black. Only designers could have a colour called ‘cool grey’ and, not happy with one we have eleven cool greys! That’s not to mention Pantones 400 to 446. Watch out for the Warm Greys though, far too cozy for my liking.

Good Humour

I used to live in Holmfirth, and in this ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ town there was a postcard museum full of those awful old funnynot postcards; all a bit ‘Carry On by all means but I will need to punch you.’ Indeed the same D&AD book as previously mentioned featured an Saatchi 18-30 campaign which in a way referenced this aspect of British humour.

The thought of an 18-30 holiday always horrified me but I can’t help but admiring the execution of this set of images. And, although not to everyone’s taste there was humour there.

All this may suggest that I think we designers are a dour lot, clearly this isn’t true. We do however need to focus on fine details, technicalities, production constraints and I suppose the concerns, and needs of our customers; the paradox is that this can get in the way of a more developed and witty solution to the brief.

There was someone I used to regularly see at a business networking event, he always started his pitch with a tumbleweed joke: dust, wind, tolling bell, the full works. It was awful. There is nothing worse than an unfunny joke, ask Bernard Manning. What, he’s dead? Well ask him anyway and enjoy the moment. Let me make it clear though, I’m not advocating Christmas cracker humour any more than I would promote poor design.

I recently posted a YouTube featuring Philippe Starck and he really surprised me, he was very funny. Well actually what surprised me was that he wasn’t thin, wearing those aggressive designy glasses and was wearing a Ducati jacket rather than a black suit, white face, black shirt, white socks, black shoes, black hair. On reflection though I thought that there is actually a lot of humour, perhaps wit is a better term, flowing through his work. I won’t pretend to love it all and I wouldn’t publicly admit to being a fan of the Aprillia but I could probably get away with saying the Voxan is pretty cool if only because no-one knows what a Voxan is.

Well, a quick trawl through Twitter and there is plenty of humour to be found there, some of it from designers. To be fair British Humour doesn’t always translate internationally but that’s ‘their’ problem isn’t it? What I’m saying is that perhaps it’s time to get serious about the value of wit and humour in design and to ensure that it survives the design process.

I have long thought that there should be an extra principle added to The Ten the Dieter Rams famously proposed.

The Eleventh Principle of Good Design

11) Good design should appeal to the human emotions.

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