Without much context, when individuals are asked what they think “bad design” is, they may suggest a design that they associate with a “bad” place or product. They might point to McDonald’s golden arch as an example of bad design because of what the company represents. But when we consider the key elements of graphic design, we realize that the classic golden arch is both visually and conceptually strong. Often the average individual is not aware of what successful design is without an education in the arts. Therefore, it is difficult for one to grasp the idea of “good” vs. “bad” design without assuming that the product is being treated subjectively. Good design is strong design that communicates as much as possible while utilizing the design elements of line, shape, color, and balance. Bad design can be identified as the opposite, excessive imagery and/or words that do not communicate efficiently. A major issue of public concern is the lack of consideration that goes into deciding on and executing strong, “good” design. Unfortunately, as time goes by the world is being filled with more and more superfluous, “bad” design.
Design can be described as the “intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.” The McDonald’s golden arch, although often regarded in a negative light, is one of the most popular logos in the world. When people see the the capital “M,” they recognize its simplicity. D.H. Lawrence, the English novelist, once observed that “You can’t invent a design. You recognize it.” The arch’s message is very clear to its audience and therefore everyone who sees it knows exactly what’s in store for him or her as a customer. If the problem of weak design can be solved it will not only benefit society with its day to day aesthetic, but could also make matters much easier on the average individual as an abundance of strong design would simplify the world around him or her.
There has almost always been a need for design as it is the logical way of putting elements together and presenting them in an aesthetically pleasing way. The design of something is often only seen as the decorative aspect of an object; in reality, an object’s design is the visual language through which it communicates with its audience. Throughout history, different movements in the art world, such as Art Nouveau, Impressionism, Expressionism, and Modernism, have influenced the graphic, fashion, and furniture design of that time period. Without a doubt, the most revolutionary movement affecting the world’s perception of design was Modernism. After the tragic events of World War II, artists needed to find clarity and serenity in their work. In the design world, Modernism provided a chance to eliminate all excess line, color, and pattern and to focus on the fundamental elements of visual communication. Since then, success in the design world has revolved around simplicity and strength. It is crucial that todays society recognizes the importance of design and its vast history. The more the public knows about design, the greater the want for it as a strong component in popular products will be.
In today’s economy, the public is too anxious about making money and spending it quickly to worry about the quality of a product. One of the most respected Italian designers of the modern world, Massimo Vignelli, who introduced Helvetica to America, has made the point that “good design lasts.” The public has an issue of settling on cheap design instead of investing in a product that’s worth while. Businesses like Walmart and Target emphasize how cheap their products are in cost but never admit to the similarity in quality. One solution to this public issue is the concept behind the Swedish furniture company, Ikea. Ikea makes clean and simple designs for very low prices that are affordable for a family. Unfortunately, although Ikea’s products are well designed, they are similar to Walmart’s products in that they aren’t too durable and often need to be replaced.
Along with being short-lived, popular design is often only valuable because of how trendy it is. Strong design does not become obsolete because it doesn’t need to be fashionable. In fashion design, a flashy shirt that follows a sequins trend would be an example of poor design. One could guess that it would be itchy and uncomfortable because of the material as well as a very temporary piece in one’s wardrobe because of its lack of versatility. On the other hand, a simple black t-shirt would qualify as strong design because of how incredibly functional it is. Not only is the black t-shirt as simple as they come, but it doesn’t try to hide anything with gimmicks or flair. The simpler something is, the better chance it has of being used frequently in ones everyday life. In Ikea’s archive of product design, there is no such thing as a vintage Ikea couch; its straightforward, practical design is timeless.
In conclusion, one may find that modern designers often forget that the reason today’s society values design and encourages it, is for the innovation it provides. The average consumer may be blinded by the advertising tactics or scheme behind a product. A major challenge that designers must face, whether they are in the fashion, graphic, or furniture field, is that although they know what is truly pleasing to the eye, the rest of world may not. In fact, one may argue that the issue of weak design is not solely the fault of our current generation of designers but instead the fault of the designers’ customers. It is the people who don’t understand the fundamentals of design elements who generate the need for bad design in the first place.