Design’s not all fun and games, but why not?

It’s no coincidence that we’ve renewed our call for more humour in graphics in the week we publish the results of this year’s Design Week Awards. Significantly, a couple of the sparkling examples we quote in our “funnies” feature (see page 13) have left our judges chuckling in the past and have naturally drawn the prizes. Life’s too short to be po-faced, and if you can create a moment of levity and still do a good job, you’re surely on to a winner.

It’s more likely to be the design that causes a wry smile or gasp of admiration for its sheer wit that goes down in the annals as brilliant design than the one that provokes an instant belly laugh. But then not all design is for the archives, and, with packaging in particular, belly laughs might be more appropriate for a short but successful stint on the supermarket shelves.

You can’t beat a great idea though, namely one that’s brilliantly executed and with that extra witty twist.

Outstanding wits such as Alan Fletcher and The Partners are sadly rare, though the latter’s bequest to the Royal College of Art to raise a laugh among young graphics stars might throw up a few more original thinkers. But there is room in design for other kinds of pranksters too, as long as the result isn’t a sick joke.

What a pity, therefore, that so little wit shone through this year’s awards entries to bring some mirth to the proceedings. The overall mediocrity resulted in few top honours for graphics.

You can blame this in part on the rock-bottom state of the industry in the 12 months before the judging, the pressure on consultancies to work fast, and eroded fees from clients not prepared to take a risk. But you can’t forget the lack of spirit and ingenuity it shows among designers. Persuading the client to go for fun can be hard, but it’s not impossible and is always worth a shot.

Wit isn’t everything in design, but it helps. Our judges have done well to hold out for a higher standard this year to preserve the integrity of the awards.

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