A Place for the Gaudy in Design

My Kind of Compliment Sandwich

My Kind of Compliment Sandwich

Self-aware preamble: As a backhanded compliment to a respected peer & ‘good acquaintance’ (less than ‘movies & beers’–my definition of ‘friend’–but better than just ‘I know the guy’), I might not be using the compliment sandwich. End preamble.

The tour is coming up, & we’re preparing the signage. Honestly, it’s garish, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When he first asked my opinion, Mike reminded me of me & my insecurities. It was surreal & unexpected, as his eye is well-refined & I dig his taste. I eventually said

Is it enough to say it’s not ugly?

And we laughed.

Then a client of his arrived; I went for a coffee & reflected on it. I had no opinion that didn’t include the recommendation: start over (it went unvocalized). The design is extremely divergent from what I think looks good, from colour to font (also, I don’t envy the challenge of the atypical banner shape). But as I stood & looked out his studio’s front window onto the main street & sipped on a cream-deficient coffee, I realized Mike’s sign was perfect.

SGAA Brochure

SGAA Brochure (PDF)

My sense of taste worked for the brochure (PDF); organic, colourful, unified, balanced – but that sensibility would be unremarkable & ill-advised as street signage for a one-weekend affair. There aren’t 20 views for the public to get used to its presence. And I’m not brave enough to make something that jars the eye to this extent.

Example: the bright, sky-emulating cyan that caps the vertical banner doesn’t appear on Elmvale’s main drag. Remember the bright blue women were wearing in the early aughts? That blue. As fashion, it’s over. I never would have considered it. Yet it stands out & I expect it will be effective, & I said as much before leaving.

The Original Compliment Sandwich

The Original Compliment Sandwich

It’s brilliant in a way, & completely counter to what I feel is Mike’s natural, intuitive sense.

Whether tasteful design or airs toward sophistication, it depends on context. What do you do to stand out?

*sigh* All advertising is noise. Some places have laws limiting it, & some noise is more valuable than others (literal case in point). I remember Barrie had a problem for a short time with single, small, bright, pulsating-every-two-seconds purple/near ultraviolet lights perched atop portable signs (counter to By-law number 2005-093, Section 11.1.1.0.0 – PDF). They were impossibly intense even in the daytime, &, as a driver, I was relieved at their discontinuation.

When the landscape, urban or otherwise, lacks uniformity, the tasteful is easily lost. Conversely, when everything is cacophonous, minimalism stands out. Take the way our brains filter information: is it law of nature, or LOL of nature?

Elmvale business signage has covered a range of design – utilitarian B+W block letters w/red detail, minimalist Helveticaesque text, script fonts that attempt classiness, as well as some very well-designed logos & genre-specific, easily identifiable store frontage (such as the smart branding of the local bar as an Irish pub – but, oh, those poor greens on the website).

One more point that I can’t resist about the banner: the floor of earthy-ish orange-brown that isn’t Pantone 448C, but reminds me of it, is as appropriate–& therefore perfect–as anything else.

I’d say it’s a great piece of advert.

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