Two graphic designers share what design issues irritate them the most.
Don Mock 0:19
Episode 62. We’re back and we’re back with our friend Cuyler.
Don Mock 0:23
How’s it going, Cuyler?
It’s good. It’s good. Another Friday,
Don Mock 0:26
Another Friday, Friday when we’re recording it. When does this come out? I have no idea.
Don Mock 0:31
Some people think this is live, but it’s not live. We record before it comes out.
And we edit.
Don Mock 0:37
We do at it. Yeah.
Occasionally. We don’t cut out too much stuff.
Don Mock 0:39
Thank goodness, thank good. Just all the all the inappropriate jokes.
Yeah, mostly Rob.
Don Mock 0:44
He won’t listen to this so we can mistreat him. Alright, so two designers in the house. Figured it might be fun for us on a Friday afternoon, to chat about graphic design pet peeves? Are any designers out there listening? You can send us comments or shake your fist in the air or whatever. But things that might not necessarily be a rule, but just things that bother us. You know what I mean? Or things that- you are classically trained, I was classically trained…
Don Mock 1:15
Things that we see out in the world that, oof, God that drives me crazy.
Because there is a world of well, I don’t want to say non-designers designing, but there’s a world of people who are non-designers.
Don Mock 1:26
I’ll say it, there’s a world of non-designers designing.
Don Mock 1:30
However you want to put it.
Don Mock 1:33
It’s only going to happen more with Adobe reaching out more towards, Hey, you don’t have to be a designer to design stuff. You know what I mean? it’s like, oh, which is so weird that they would, from a business perspective, sort of, I don’t want to say alienate their core target audience, because we’re trapped with them. We’re not going anywhere.
Right. They have like a-
Don Mock 1:53
Firefly is what I’m thinking, is that what you’re thinking?
I was thinking of that, but in general, they’ve made the user interface… they’ve tried to move towards easier and easier to use for people who are less familiar with programs, or they have the light versions of different things.
Don Mock 2:07
Apple’s kind of doing the same thing. Our computers are slowly turning into our phones.
Don Mock 2:13
In terms of, System Preferences, and the back end and all. I mean, we’ve been power users for you know, shoot 20 years now. And it’s like, no, no, I don’t need my computer to look at my phone.
I don’t want it to.
Don Mock 2:23
Yeah, but now it’s starting to happen.
Don Mock 2:26
Which is interesting. But anyway, back to graphic design pet peeves. I just did a couple of quick notes on things right off the top that get my goat. Number one on the list is always going to be stretching and destroying the logo.
Yeah, we’ve talked about that. I mean, I didn’t even write that down.
Don Mock 2:42
Because it’s so obvious.
Beyond a pet peeve.
Don Mock 2:44
Exactly. We have to get that. Oh my god, I gave the client the logo. and then they sent me a PowerPoint of direction or this or that. They stretched their own logo. God, what are you guys doing? Hold down Shift, or something.
One further. It’s type, too. Stretching anything that’s designed the way it was supposed to be.
Don Mock 3:02
Dear God, people just hold the shift button. And shift it, stretcg, and resize accordingly.
In Photoshop, you don’t have to hold shift.
Don Mock 3:11
I know. They made a dummy proof.
I was going to say, yeah, that was one of the changes they did not that long ago.
Don Mock 3:16
I know, I spent two minutes trying to figure out how to undo that because, daddy need to move things around the way I want to move ir around.
It was interesting to me. They didn’t do that with Illustrator.
Don Mock 3:27
Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s a whole nother topic.
Don Mock 3:31
Why don’t Illustrator and Photoshop play nicer together? Or have some similarities? It blows my mind.
I could rant. We could do another one on pet peeve application..
Don Mock 3:40
On my lord, for sure. So stretching logos right off the top. That’s number one. Number two for me is- not that this isn’t any particular order of course, and I think I may have mentioned it before on something- is type that’s running vertical. So vertical typography. I was always taught and if you look at any bookshelf on Earth, you know, you tilt your head to the right, and it reads from the top down. That’s the way type is supposed to be you know, on a vertical book spine, right? So it drives me crazy when I am out and about or wayfinding or you see signage at a mall or in a strip mall or outside the building or whatever, and it’s Office Depot and the O is at the bottom of the sign. And you read from bottom up. What in the hell are these people do- like that? Is that a rule?
I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s actually, technically a hard and fast rule. I feel like it is.
I remember a Professor mentioning it.
Don Mock 4:34
I mean, you shouldn’t have type going from the floor to the sky.
No. It doesn’t make any sense.
Don Mock 4:41
Top down people. Why are we doing this?
Interesting thing is, I bet that, that would probably be the same, because in Eastern cultures they read-
Don Mock 4:49
Right to left.
Right to left. But I would imagine that they would also do top down. Because bottom up just doesn’t make sense from any standpoint.
Don Mock 4:57
Bottom up is almost universal. God. Man, I’ve been doing this a long time. There is a rare occasion where it actually made sense.
It only makes sense when there’s two- one’s going top down, one’s going bottom up.
Don Mock 5:10
Like end caps on a trade show or something of that?
Yeah, I guess. I mean, I guess. I’m trying to think in a design where you’re having the type going both ways.
Don Mock 5:19
Oh, I see what you’re saying.
Then, it might it might play.
Don Mock 5:23
I don’t know that there’s really ever an appropriate time to go bottom up. But I’m telling you, it happens all the time, when you see it out and about. It gives me the heebs, the heebie jeebies is what I mean by that. But I don’t know that anybody really thinks about it how we think about it.
I think I remember hearing Paula Scher talking about when she did posters for MoMA. If you think about the MoMA posters, or even the banners that come off the side of the building, it’s MoMA, you know, top down. Then you have all the exhibit information to the left of the top down type. She set up a bunch of different templates for them, because they were doing it the other way.
Don Mock 6:00
Oh, my God. Yeah, absolutely insane. Do you want me to keep going? Do you want to jump in?
You eep going. Mine are a little bit more nitpicky.
Don Mock 6:07
Alright, here’s one that I think you will appreciate, considering the work that we’ve done this week, and what’s gone into it. You see it all over the place. I’m gonna say, transparency in bottles. And here’s what I mean by that. There’s always, it’s a Coca Cola bottle, or it’s Pepsi or whatever, it’s a beer bottle. It’s whatever it is, right? You have a glass bottle, and some artists out there, production artist or us or whomever. It’s, I got a bunch of visual assets from a client, and oh, I have to create an ad, I have to do something with it. It’s, oh, I’ve got this great Coca Cola bottle. and I’ve put it on a background. But from the bottle cap down to where the coke starts is white because it was shot in a studio. It’s transparent. Yet, you’ve put it on a red background, and yet, you don’t spend the 10 minutes to knock out that white and actually do a transparency through, to what the actual background is.
There’s a lot of ways to do that, too.
Don Mock 7:03
Don Mock 7:05
That makes me cuckoo pants.
You’ll see it, too, with people who have pulled stock stuff. So much stock stuff is on a white background, and you get a similar kind of thing.
Don Mock 7:15
Yeah. So it’s, oh, here’s this great, beautiful beach shot or whatever. and somebody’s holding a bottle or whatever, like that. and it’s like, oh, it’s got the white neck. That makes me crazy. Did no one along the approval process see what’s happening here? Now, I mean, if we’re doing low res comps, don’t spend it- only do it when it’s final, to get that through. But that’s another weird little pet peeve of the way that the industry has sort of grown is that, you see that it’s obviously a fake image. Right? That to me is an immediate tip off. Okay, this is a composite of some sort.
Right. And we were talking actually also about the lighting of different assets being compiled together. It’s one of those things where, to an untrained eye, you’re still aware that something’s wrong. Because you see the real in the natural world all the time.
Don Mock 8:08
Even if you can’t articulate well, what’s what’s happening here? It looks funny. It doesn’t look real.
Don Mock 8:13
You know, a lot of times it has to do with lighting. In the case of transparency, that’s a little bit more obvious.
Don Mock 8:18
But is it though? So there’s a gas station down here on the corner, that’s fully wrapped in Coca Cola stuff. Whatever, I don’t even know. The whole side of the building of the little mart or whatever. It’s all Coca Cola. It’s the skyline. It’s got bottles. Even that, the bottles like nine feet tall. And they didn’t knock out the neck of the thing. It blows my mind.
Yeah. That’s a total lack of attention to detail. I don’t know how… the problem is that probably got past a dozen eyes, who looked at that. Everyone gave it the thumbs up.
Don Mock 8:51
Yeah. No one ever saw. Yeah, exactly. That’s weird. Again, that’s a very, very… I mean, we’re talking about peeves. So it’s just my own weird little idiosyncrasies.
I get it, I get it. The ones that I wrote down where… alignment is my number one pet peeve.
Don Mock 9:05
I know one of the other designers, who used to work here had a similar-
Don Mock 9:10
Frustration about alignment. I think she mentioned, when she would go through resume, that those were the first ones she was throwing out. I gotta be honest, that’s probably a good indicator.
Don Mock 9:22
I mean, it’s a great… if you cannot type set your CV appropriately, you’re in trouble right from the get-go.
Yeah, so it for me, it would be alignment. Then one thing that really bothers me-
Don Mock 9:32
Well, hold on, just for the people at home that might not know what that means, alignment. You’re speaking specifically to typography. Is that correct?
Yes and no. Also, meaning if there are certain objects that are coming to a hard edge, say, to the left. Then you have left aligned type underneath it. But it’s not at that same line. That’ll bother me.
Don Mock 9:54
Oh, for sure.
So it’s kind of just paying attention to the verticals and the horizontals and where things are hitting. and trying to keep everything consistent. Most trained designers are putting guides on many of their designs. Or if you’re working in InDesign, sometimes it’s kind of set up for you, depending on how you set it up. Some programs will do a hard snap to those areas, right?
Don Mock 10:20
But other times you kind of need to be a little bit more…
Don Mock 10:23
Yeah, you gotta keep the eye out.
Don Mock 10:25
Critical eye. And tangents, too make sure that things aren’t terminating in strange places.
Exactly. So, alignment, and then another one that gets me is spacing. So if you have a logo and a line of type, and then a subhead type right, underneath it. To me, there should be some kind of proportionality between the spacing of those things, whether it’s the same distance between each of those objects. Or if one needs a little bit more space, is it the same distance plus a half of that? Or is it twice of that? Sometimes I will see things, where I feel like it’s so arbitrary, that it just feels like there wasn’t quite as careful as it should have been. It’s the little stuff.
Don Mock 11:08
I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear you say this, because that is definitely one of my pet peeves. The arbitrary nature of spacing between elements. We talk about layout proportion form, but there is a specificity and a purpose to visual hierarchy. I know it sounds like I’m saying a word salad right now.
But that is like the word that comes up 1000 times in design school. Hierarchy.
Don Mock 11:34
Yeah. But whatever you’re doing, there has to be a visual flow and a prioritization of information. One of the easiest ways that young designers are one of the easiest ways you can achieve that, right, is by having proper alignment and spacing between all the elements. To your point, if it’s arbitrary, your eye gets into a confused zigzag motion. You’re not really sure what’s happening. If things are too tight in certain areas, but then open in other areas… I’m sure people listening have heard about negative space, whitespace, that type of thing. You need the visual break for your eyeball, for your brain to process what you’re actually interfacing with. So if everything’s so cramped and tight and whatnot, you’re not going to have-
You see it as one thing.
Don Mock 12:22
Yeah. and you’re not going to have a successful priority, or hierarchy, of what’s happening.
On the flip side, if there’s too much spacing for something that should be read as multiple parts of a whole, then it feels like it’s just kind of hanging off-
Don Mock 12:38
Is this part of the logo? There’s all kinds of things like that. I would say this is another one of those things that, to non-designers, they might find it looks funny, and not understand or be able to articulate why. But I feel like, to most people, we see enough good design.
Don Mock 12:57
This is one of those things where-
Don Mock 12:59
You kind of only realize it when it’s bad design. Good design tends to be the more thankless… I dont want to call it a thankless job, because there’s more thankless jobs out there than in craft design. But it’s one of those things where-
Don Mock 13:14
We’ve got a pretty good, we’ve got a pretty good.
If design is done right, a lot of times, it’s something that just feels natural. Like you’ve seen it before, almost. Or even if it’s something totally fresh, if you’re noticing it, a lot of times, I would say it’s because there’s something wonky about it.
Don Mock 13:30
Yes, Yes. But just because it’s fresh and clean, doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve that. I mean, it’s kind of like, think about illustrators, who thumbnail and scribble scrabble out so many forms and proportions. You know what I mean, their final product may be the super clean mono-line drawing or illustration, whatever. But the work and the scratch work to get to that point is where the rubber is. I was having a conversation with another person in the office yesterday about the difference between graphic design and art direction. We’re working on some advertising elements. And it was, hey, while the design is great, if you look at it independently. From a graphic design perspective, good things are happening. But to your point, Cuyler, from an art directional perspective, and wanting to group and cluster bits of information together to simplify the approach for a user. Advertising, it’s like, hey, I want a 1-2-3 and I’m out. I want to see what the headline is, what are you telling me? What are you showing me? Then who was it brought to you by? I mean, I’m grossly oversimplifying here, painting with a broad brush.
Usually, if there’s three elements or three points you’re getting across, that can’t have equal weight, in terms of the importance.
Don Mock 14:51
And we see that all the time you see it, whether you’re just opening up a magazine. Just about every ad, you’re gonna see a big headline, and you’re gonna see some smaller information, whatever that information is. Then you might see body copy, or you might see “by” or whoever it is. But if it’s all the same thing-
Don Mock 15:12
If it all has the same visual weight.
Then you might read the “brought to you by” as the headline.
Don Mock 15:19
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, it is one of the interesting aspects of sort of the difference between art direction and graphic design. But we are talking about design pet peeves.
Don Mock 15:29
I think all of this ties into spacing and what you were talking about.
Spacing, alignment. Those are elements that help hierarchy.
Don Mock 15:41
Totally. All right, what else is on your list? Cuz I got another one here.
You go ahead.
Don Mock 15:46
All right. I’m gonna say because you had mentioned a lot of non-trained designers doing design work. I want to say the magical drop shadow button.
Don Mock 15:58
Super pet peeve of mine. Just, we are in an Instagram filter world and all this crazy stuff. But from a design perspective, we’ve got all these great little one-touch solutions, that kind of kickstart the process. I say, kickstart the process of hey, I can hit the drop shadow button, and then poof, there’s a drop shadow. However, that does not mean that we are done here, with the drop shadow. That doesn’t mean that you have… to your point, about the bottle is that there’s a consistent lighting source, that it is the correct color. Not all drop shadows are black. When I see designs out in the world, especially drop shadows on type. Completely unnecessary, some type of hand written cursive type with a drop shadow on it. On a website, it’s like, Oh, my Lord, hit the back button. I’m getting out of here. This is awful.
I know you’ll agree with me. The best use of a drop shadow for type, is when you-
Don Mock 16:54
Uh-oh, what’s about to happen here?
I was gonna say, you kill the X and the Y. Then you just blow out the blur, way high. So that so that basically, you’re adding contrast that you almost can’t see, is how I’ve used it. I would say I use the drop shadow like that more than I do any other way. But it works for things that are totally flat. You’re looking at it directly flat on it. If you’re doing a shadow on an object that’s sitting up with a angular light source, there is no drop, you can’t use it. You gotta go build a shadow. You gotta make a mesh or something like that.
Don Mock 17:02
I mean, I was working on an ad today, we had a headline over some clouds. It was, hey, I’ll use the drop shadow as a method to diffuse the white type away from the white clouds. Then I’ll set my drop shadow to be a blue. I’ll color pick it or whatever, from the photo itself. You don’t even know it’s there. But it helps add a little bit of contrast. Versus, if I’ve got a cup of coffee here that I need to retouch into an image… you have to custom-build that shadow, like an illustrator, like a retoucher. There’s no magical drop shadow to add to this. It’s totally insane.
You gotta use the ellipses and gradients and all kinds of stuff.
Don Mock 18:11
Well, besides the type that’s the other thing that just makes me-
Gradients, we could talk about gradients.
Don Mock 18:16
Oh, God. Well, let me finish this thought though. When you go to, oh, I’m browsing for something online and go to a site and they’ve got thumbnails of all their products or whatever. They’ve clipped all their products, and then used the exact same drop shadow on every single product.. Like, Oh, God, why did you do this?
What do you really irks me about that?
Dude, we’re down the nerd graphic design analysis.
Sometimes not even necessarily the drop shadow. It’s how pronounced it is. If you’re new to design, try 15%. It works pretty well.
Don Mock 18:49
Well said. Well said. Yeah, those are some of my pet peeves. Any other initial pet peeves off the top of your head?
You mentioned gradients. That is one of my big pet peeves. and I’m gonna mention it because right now, I feel like there’s a trend. Maybe in the app world. Slap a gradient on something.
Don Mock 19:08
I mean, whether it’s HBO Max, Instagram- their big rebrand on Instagram, was the gradient.
Don Mock 19:15
I think when Instagram changed to the rainbowish kind of gradient.
Don Mock 19:21
Yeah, with the purple and the all the different things. I do think they did a successful job with their mark.
Don Mock 19:28
I will say that they did a great job on that. But what it did is a kick-started off every other company wanting to try to do gradient scenarios in everything. Not only just their mark, but in all their backyard, like everything. Oh my word.
Much like the drop shadow, it can be used if it’s subtle. So you’re going from one shade of blue to a shade of blue just underneath that.
Don Mock 19:50
Then you get like this nice little tonal difference, versus I’m going from one side of the color wheel to the other.
Don Mock 19:59
Yeah, exactly. I think the Instagram- I think why it’s successful is it’s really more of a gradient mash, than it is just a straight drag of a gradient.
So is HBO Max.
Don Mock 20:08
Yeah, HBO Max, I think, soon to not be HBO Max anymore. Which is a whole nother conversation about why would you drop the power of HBO? That makes no sense to me whatsoever. But but the gradient mesh, I think is is definitely a… when done right, it’s good. It adds a subtle sort of, more of a blend.
It feels more organic than your straight, linear or radial.
Don Mock 20:30
Yeah. It’s interesting, you know, again, because we are both trained in digital as well as print and have to deal with that all the time, we also have that interesting viewpoint on RGB. We talked about color sources. An RGB gradient mesh, can be a powerful tool versus Oh, whoa, you can’t print that. That is not going to print even remotely close to that. So I think we both have an aversion to gradients in that respect, too, but subtle,- just like drop shadows, like you’re saying- maybe less is more. And those types of things.
In general, I would say in design, it tends to be… subtlety is kind of the name of the game.
Don Mock 21:10
Subtlety helps when you do want to make a big statement with something, within the design. It helps that stand out and be the focus.
Don Mock 21:19
Yeah, the priority. So all right, I mean, I’m good. This could be a multi-pod series, but I think these are kind of the highlights. I think that’ll wrap it up for today. Where can people find us, Mr. Singh?
Don Mock 21:33
There you go.
And on the socials @mocktheagency.
Don Mock 21:35
Well said. All right, well kick it out till next time Thanks everybody.