Skip to content

The Design Curmudgeon

2012 October 1

Many years ago, the sportswriter Frank Deford introduced the world to a friend of his, identified as The Sports Curmudgeon. Mr. Deford’s friend was passionate about sports, but like many sports fans also had his share of complaints and grievances, and over the years occasionally borrowed the microphone from his friend Frank to poke holes in various dumb, phony or just plain annoying aspects of the world of sports.

The Sports Curmudgeon seems to have mellowed out in recent years, or at least slowed down. His last appearance was 18 months ago, following another “hiatus” of some length. Memory of the Sports Curmudgeon and his good service, however, recently inspired the idea of a kind of tribute I might present here on Modern Ideas. It so happens that I have a friend, myself, who shares my interest in the graphic arts but combines it with a gift for calling out the field’s more brainless aspects, which is quite reminiscent of our old friend the Sports Curmudgeon. After giving the idea some thought, we’ve decided that the world may be ready for a Design Curmudgeon to take up where his predecessor left off.

And that, if not—tough. Without (much) further ado, Modern Ideas is proud to introduce The Design Curmudgeon.

[DISCLAIMER: “The Design Curmudgeon” is presented for entertainment purposes only, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of Modern Alchemy, its proprietor, its clients, this blog, or Frank Deford. Any resemblance between The Design Curmudgeon and any real person living or dead is entirely coincidental. Please consult your doctor before deciding if The Design Curmudgeon may be right for you.]

Well, thank you Mister Fanny-cover. Now that we’ve got that baloney out of the way…

Being a designer is great these days, in most ways. All this wondeful technology right at our fingertips. But I’ve gotta say, lately I almost long for the old days when it wasn’t so “generous” in one or two ways. To a few big software companies in particular, in fact, I’m almost ready to plead with you:

Enough already with software packages that install dozens of fonts, without any option for user discretion, including dippy novelty font junk like “Curlz” and “Giddyup.” I don’t need these, I don’t want them, quit trying to junk up my font menu with them!

Of course, annoyances with technology aren’t all out-of-the-box features—not that software actually has a box most of the time nowadays—some times it takes the people using it to really set my bleary old eyes a-rolling. Like with Adobe’s indispensible Acrobat program. The PDF workflow hasn’t yet produced a real “paperless office,” but it sure helps a designer working with far-off clients in this globalized superconnected world of ours, not to mention beats the Hell out of wandering around among a cubicle maze trying to deliver a slip of paper for approval like a supplicant at some Byzantine court…

But folks, PDF comments, as great as they are, are a little like a semi truck: a great way to deliver a lot across a great distance, but maybe just slightly overkill if all you’re delivering is a birthday card: if you’re just changing one word in one small document that’s easy to describe, just describe it in your e-mail (or even over the phone, gasp)! You don’t need to embed it in a PDF comment. Talk about over-packaging!

Sometimes I wonder what the world’s coming to. It’s football season, meanwhile, and in a little sympathetic gesture of exasperation to my distinguished predecessor, I’ve got a little sports-related “are-you-kiddin’-me” of my own I might bring up. College sports fans may recall last year when the 11-member Big Ten conference added a 12th team, and decided to roll out a new logo. Your regular blogger noted their baffling selection, at the time. But recently I’ve noticed something even more gob-smacking. In online postings, I’ve seen people actually typing “B1G” when referring to the Big Ten conference.

Really? Gang, a word of advice from someone who actually loves a good typographic trick: this ain’t one. It doesn’t look especially clever in the logo, and it looks outright idiotic typed into ordinary text. Be a fan; don’t be a fan boy.

To be fair, though… I must admit that designers who live in dorky houses shouldn’t throw spitwads. Or something like that. The design profession puts up with a lot of patience testing, but sadly, it doesn’t all come from outside. I can hardly complain about sports fans, software companies and editors and then depart without a word about this summer’s announcement from one Mr. Ric Grefé, executive director of The American Institute of Graphic Arts, no less. In a typically empty, pompous, puffed-up spiel about the latest “direction” that AIGA’s leadership wants to lead design toward, good old Ric set a whole new standard for meaningless-but-confoundingly-weird slogans with the “head, heart and hand” theme.

“Head, Heart and Hand?”

Ric, pal, I’m pretty certain that you mean well… it’s hard to imagine that anything but the best of intentions could ever have some up with something this clunky, after all… but what exactly are you running, there? A professional organization for graphic design—or 4-H?

Comments are closed.