complicated

“Make It Pretty!” Three Words Designers Hate

I want to launch a tirade against three words – three words that can make anybody in the creative field of design cringe with a sense of disgust and loathing for the obviously clueless individual that utters them… “Make it Pretty.”

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Don’t get me wrong, I am all for creating aesthetically pleasing designs that get the point across while pleasing the eyes of the viewer. Good designers bring a sense of beauty to a product, creating a look and feel that makes customers want to buy it, or find out more about it. While some people like to look at hideous things continually, I myself do not. So, it makes sense that people pay designers to make the product or service they promote look “pretty”.

All that being said, why then am I so against that phrase “Make It Pretty”. Quite simply, it cheapens design. It likens all the work that a creative person does to putting a paint job on a rusty car. I find it a bit offensive. But, for those who are unaware of the intense work that goes into design, it is a catchphrase that can be uttered time and time again.

An in-house designer is more likely to be confronted with this diabolical missile into the ethos of design itself than, say, someone who works with freelance clients. There is something about working for the same company all of the time that makes the employer think that good designs are cheep and easy to create. Like putting a quarter into a toy machine and out pops a shiny new design. As any creative professional knows, that is not the case. The mental and creative energy that goes into design is no laughing matter. It is a skill that not everyone has, and even those with rudimentary knowledge of some programs cannot accomplish.

I once had to point out to an employer the utter silliness of that phrase, and say that if it were so easy to do, then you would not have to pay a designer. While that was a bit foolish on my part, after all they were paying my salary, the point I was trying to make is one that needed to be made. The work of a designer is no less important than that of the person who creates the product. I know, and have heard of many brilliant products and companies, that go unnoticed because of poor marketing, design, and promotion.

So, how does a creative professional go about making the distinction that turns that despised phrase into an obsolete phrase in the vocabulary of their customer or management? Several ways come to mind. Some of them are not so nice. I am kidding of course.
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The first way to combat this is to ugly up a design and see what happens.
Make an expensive ad look like something out of a used car flyer. If they like it, you might have discovered the problem. They have no taste. Be sure and design the real ad on the side, just in case they hate it and consider finding an alternative designer.

Wear a shirt that has a bold type print on it, saying, “I Do More Then Just Make Stuff Pretty!!” If you are more bold, then that you could always have the phrase, “I Do More Then Just Make Your S**t Look Good.” I am not that bold – and would rather not offend my boss.

All kidding aside, I have found that the best ways to deal with employers who don’t understand the work that goes into design is to be honest with them. If they are willing, the designer can ask them to go through the process. Show them how you take the design job they give you and work through it from start to finish. Most employers will have a much greater respect for their designer if they knew how complicated design can be. The reason this would work is that it would take some of the mystery out of the process and show them that a designer doesn’t just sprinkle magic fairy dust over blank pieces of paper to make awesome designs.

Just a little warning: Unless the next words out of your mouth are, “I Quit”, never, ever, under any circumstances, look your employers straight in the eye and say, “If it is so-o-o-o easy to make this stuff look good, then why don’t you do it”.

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In just about any creative design field, a designer is going to be faced with people who don’t understand the work, think that it is a snap to do, and seek to undermine the importance how the design effects the overall appearance of the company or the product. The main thing is not to stress too much about it. If a designer knows that they are producing quality work, then the work will speak for itself, and their employer will thank them for making them look good.

If it is impossible to make “pretty” happen, you can always revert to used car flyers. On second thought, don’t do that.