Why are so many things broken?

Written August 29, 2011 • Steve Perry

I watched a short video yesterday where Seth Godin talks about how things are ‘broken’ and it really got me thinking about how we can all learn lessons from this and produce better design.

He talks about signs which don’t make sense because the wrong hierarchy has been used in the text and precedence has been given to the wrong part of the message. He suggests that part of this problem is that designers don’t really take ownership of the projects which they are working on. This is true in many ways and I’ve seen this a lot over the years where I’ve heard designers say things like;

Well that’s what the client asked for…
That’s the image that I was told to use…
The client supplied the copy, it’s not my fault it doesn’t make sense, etc.

Well, actually, as a designer working on a project it is your responsibility to make sure that whatever you are designing – whether it be a corporate identity, brochure, poster, car instrument panel, factory machine user panel, website – makes sense and that it works. If your client gives you copy which doesn’t read correctly then speak to your client and recommend that they have you re-write it. If the image is not appropriate or is low-resolution then speak to them and offer a solution. If they ask for everything to be bold so that it all stands out, then recommend and advise that nothing will stand out if everything is bold and offer alternative ways of producing the desired visual hierarchy. You are the professional and that’s what your client has hired you for.

Why are so many things broken? In this entertaining talk – one of the favorites of Gel 2006. Seth Godin gives a tour of things poorly designed, the reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. See also Seth’s Blog, where Seth writes daily on marketing, business and other issues.