Effective design need not mean dull design

Well-earned applause goes to Siegel & Gale this week (see News, page 6). Winning a design effectiveness prize is no mean feat.

Well-earned applause goes to Siegel & Gale this week (see News, page 6). Winning a design effectiveness prize is no mean feat. Coming top in the awards, as it has done with its work for Royal Mail, is exemplary – and to supply proof that the project paid for itself so quickly is hugely impressive. If design can be shown to be commercially effective, then half the battle of convincing clients that good design works is won.

It is also good news that a piece of information design has been so honoured. The new Royal Mail document is essentially a form – two-way communication at its most basic. This is functional, no-frills design at its best.

Or is it? Unfortunately, few designers are able to blend function with wit and delight – and, in this instance, Siegel & Gale is no exception. The practical merits of the Royal Mail form, and the creativity that entails, are beyond dispute, but why must it look so indifferent? Here was a chance for a bit of visually powerful design, sadly passed over in favour of a competent but dull solution.

We have had examples in the past of projects that have topped both effectiveness and creative charts – Lewis Moberly’s packs for Boots hosiery, for example. Why shouldn’t it happen every time?

There is a body of opinion among stauncher design effectiveness supporters that creative “beauty parades”, judged by designers and clients converted to design, are lightweight by comparison. They maintain that “prettiness” isn’t what design is all about. And they are right – to a degree.

They fail to appreciate that experienced judges will (however unwittingly) assess any submission in the context of effectiveness and fitness for purpose, whether or not the client’s balance sheet is to hand. They also undervalue the emotional joys of overtly good-looking design.

So let’s have more of a coming together of beautiful form and flawless function in all design. And let’s look more carefully at both aspects in awards judging, making sure that design that is great and commercially worthy scoops the accolades next time.

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