Artemy Lebedev

§ 86. Bad designers and bad customers

March 24, 2002

A low cultural level of today’s designers (which is inexcusable) coupled with a low cultural level of customers (which is excusable) contribute to the abundance of meaningless works.

Customers sometimes want something horrendous to be done. Designers say ditto and come up with something horrendous. Viewers watch the ugly thing and find positive sides in it: not everyone is accustomed to be critical in one’s dicta.

Design is just as easy point to debate as sports are. Or cars. Or weather. Every second garrulous debater is an expert. People choose tiles for their bathroom, buy kitchen plates, a bra for the living room. What it boils down to is the interior of a next-door apartment.

A malachite toilet bowl did not come into being by itself—there was somebody to devise it, somebody to order it and somebody to produce it. Now imagine the same people busy with a job of designing something else.

There wouldn’t be bad design if there were no bad designers. If the customer had no physical opportunity to implement his crackpot ideas, the world would not have to look at another series of horrible works. But designers are tagging along with customers out of certainty that confrontation is senseless. However, the opposite may be the case, too: a good customer comes to a bad designer and gets his bit of shit. The latter is afterwards aired and released in multiple copies.

In both cases the designer is to blame. I see no point in defending him. The customer may be spared the duty of being a sophisticated design guru. One should be grateful that he’s come to the designer at all, instead of drawing the damn thing himself (which does occur).

horrendous work
(80% of gross product*)
good work
(8% of gross product*)
bad work
(10% of gross product*)
excellent work
(2% of gross product*)

* ballpark figures

Let us consider an example. We’ll leave out the company name as it’s irrelevant for our case study.

Good customer. Bad designer.

The customer probably thought of a nice slogan for advertising apartments in a new house: “it’s new, it’s warm, it’s yours”. The designer upended the original idea by putting there three arrows. The resulting meaning is that a new apartment is on top, a warm one—in the middle, while yours, dear buyer, is way down—an old and cold hole of a place. The ellipsis is a perfect way to emphasize the disillusionment and loss of hope.

In actual fact, a good thing doesn’t need any finger-pointing to be noticed.

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