I’ve been asked the question: What is art? Well, that’s a tough one. It could be said that the higher you lift your pinky drinking your complimentary wine at some swank gallery opening would be a good determination. Or it could be that anything that is good enough to hang on a wall is art. To be honest, art is in the eye of the beholder. I’m not really that interested in this. I know what I like (anything from Van Gogh to the doodles my eldest son does in school that end up on the fridge) – there are others who would disagree. And that’s fine.

But I’m here to talk about design. What is good design? Firstly, a good design should do what it is intended to do. Say you are designing a new fire hydrant (plug, whatever). Fore-mostly you want to make it simple and efficient for the fire fighters to use. After that that is taken care of, you can discuss the aesthetics of the thing. Realizing that it is going to live on the street where hundreds of people will see it everyday, you figure you should make it look nice. Obvious in its function, but not a blight upon the landscape.

My job as a designer for businesses is basically the same.

Firstly, an ad/logo/business card/flyer (etc.) has a job to do. It is required to sell your product or service. It is my job to be the vanguard of your sales force. To get the customers to be aware of you and to meet you halfway. This is ignored at your business’ peril. There are a lot of ads out there that sacrifice message for image. Very few companies can get away with this. Not even Coca-Cola ignores the fact that they are selling a cool, refreshing beverage. It is never glossed over. There are plenty of businesses that try to do pure image ads, but it doesn’t really work. GE does it – and it kind of works, but there is a disconnect between what they intend to sell you as a concept (which they show) and what they actually sell as a product (which they don’t). But their name is big enough that they can get away with it. Most of the time.

Secondly, a design should look good. This can be tricky, as aesthetics are a very personal thing. Ego has to be put aside on both sides of a collaboration (which all of this kind of design is). If I got upset when a client shot down what I thought was a killer design, I’d have left this business years ago. It can be frustrating when a client has an idea that I don’t agree with, or wants to overcomplicate the message, but, in the end, it is his or her product on the line. The people to actually keep most in mind is your audience. Who are you trying to sell to? What will they respond to? This is of paramount importance. If you understand what your potential buyer responds to, then you have taken the most important step to creating a good design. They need to like it. And they need to be motivated by the design and (most importantly) the message you are sending to approach you to find out more. Or, at least, to remember who you are so when they pass your store or see your product, they remember and say, “Hey, I know that thing.”

I believe that every business deserves to look good. You don’t want to be a blight on the landscape. You want people to see you and like what they see. I believe that, regardless of the size of your business (or the paucity of your bank account), there’s no excuse for bad design. You shouldn’t have to settle because you think you cannot afford it. It’s my mission. I see too much bad design out there. It hurts me. And I just want to make the world a nicer looking place.

After all, isn’t that what art (or at least design) is all about?

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