I sat for at least 5 min, chin on hand, pondering an ad that popped up on my Facebook page. I cocked my head a few times and thought “dear, oh dear, oh dear, where was their proof reader?”
I’m having a mini debate with myself whether the choice of font was deliberate or just unfortunate and someone didn’t spot the obvious. I had to read the product writeup to find out the name is Ripple not Nipple. My brain simply couldn’t process the first letter as “r”. And, to be brutally honest the font makes the product a little off putting. Not quite sure I want a bottle of nipples sitting in my fridge.
We’ve all seen posters/signs that make us shake our head and mutter “whoa, what were they thinking”. It’s usually an amusing typo or a grammatical error that raises our eyebrows. Occasionally it’s the layout that causes us to stop in our tracks and ask “wait, what?” We all lay clangers and, sometimes, we don’t spot them for months. It’s not easy catching your own mistakes, which is why a ruthless proofreader is worth their weight in dark chocolate.
A sign making the rounds on the Internet lately that had me blinking a few times in a bit of disbelief.
Proofing isn’t just about catching typos and grammatical errors. It’s also layout and how the product flows. And oh boy, a fresh set of eyes would have caught this before $ were spent.
I’ve made a couple things that looked ok on the monitor but when printed, it became obvious the layout altered the message. I find it endlessly fascinating the difference between design for a monitor or small screen and print. What works for an iPhone may not translate well to a large poster and vice versa. The above sign drives home how tricky even a basic sign can be. Our eyes follow natural paths that can have unintentional consequenses. A bad case of designer tunnel vision can blur the message. Everyone involved in the poster design knew what the message was, but didn’t stop to see it through new eyes. Lots of words to incorporate, really want to stress the primary message and not seeing how the words flow. “We Support” is great – nice use of a friendly font that draws the eye to it. Then the mistake occurs. The focus is on child abuse not prevention. Such an easy mistake to make. Shrinking “child abuse” would have solved the problem. Increase size of “prevention” so it fills the sign, bumping month below to match the other 5 letter words would have created an interesting flow that would have emphasised prevention, which is kind of the point.
I have a folder with signs and posters that should have worked but didn’t for a variety of reasons. I keep them as a teaching tool for myself. I filter through them trying to figure out how a small change would have made a difference. I also have a folder holding what I think are spectacular examples of beautiful layout. I spend quite a bit of time looking at them, trying to figure out what makes them so successful. I have a thing for professional designers. Their work can have a profound impact on how we see the world around us – signs on buildings, posters, movies titles, magazines and books but we’re oblivious to the person(s) who created the work. Most of us flatter ourselves we can whip up a poster in no time because hey we have the software and a computer. But good design is so much more than knowing how to use the software. It’s an eye and feel for the work. It’s knowing how to communicate with an audience. Good design also means good proofreading. You can’t have the first without the second.
A sometimes overlooked part of design is how a web address will look. It’s a quirky thing … web addresses. What sounds good in a meeting may, in reality, come off as a slightly risque internet meme. Or a punch line in a coffee conversation. I was sitting having my usual latte when I overheard a couple of suit and ties having a laugh at the end of the table. The final line was “or we could order from penis land”. That brought my head up … Turns out it’s a pen company (and from the conversation a pretty fine one):
Here’s where a simple hyphen would have made all the difference. Doubtful anyone would have stopped and though of the half dozen jokes I heard whip around regarding the unfortunate web address.
Here’s what their logo looks like:
It’s interesting the designer carefully inserted uppercase and bolding to clearly define the company name. It borders on tragic, no one took a moment to look at the way the url looks in print. One simple hyphen would have created clarity – www.pen-island.net rather than the snicker inducing www.penisland.net. I encountered this issue many years ago … ok about 2 decades ago … when I set up my first personal website. I though cool, I’ll use my first initial and my last name. The combination turned out to be incredibly embarassing. Lesson learned and now I look at addresses when I sit down to design anything. That includes email addresses. About a year ago, I was helping a customer set up her business emails and I pointed out the name picked would quickly become embarassing. She looked at me like I had just sprouted horns. I drew a small mockup business card and wrote in the address she wanted. After the red blush faded she decided that wouldn’t do and came up with something that looked more professional.
Like I said, tricky things, urls and email addresses. The way they look in print should be considered when designing your site. Otherwise, you may end up living on penis land.
A little something to see out the old year. My only wish for the new year? Major news outlets stop relying on spell check and hire proofreaders. If you see a butchered headline drop me a line in the comments below.
Proof readers… who needs them, right? Although the imagery is pretty impressive.