Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ADVENTURES IN THE DESIGN WORLD™: U.S. Cellular Needs To Believe In Something Better Than This Shitty Billboard Design

The first time I saw this billboard, I was walking by myself down what I thought was a deserted street. Overwhelmed by the sheer ineptitude of the design, I actually blurted out "What the FUCK is that?" without even thinking I might be overheard. Of course, I was overheard by a young woman sitting on a porch, who proceeded to shoot me a nervous look which unambiguously said "Please don't hurt me".

Without further ado, let's jump right into an analysis of just what makes this billboard design look like it was thrown together in about three minutes by a Graphic Design 1 student in their first week of class.

1. Let's Talk About Fonts!

Clarendon is a beautiful typeface, even in all caps. Matrix II Italic Bold is one of those Emigre fonts that looked effing AWESOME in 1993 but passed its sell-by date no more than a couple years later. At least they didn't go for the inline version. But here's the thing, that headline uses a serif font with a semi-serif font -- and I don't give a shit if it's a slab serif, serifs are serifs and if you try to contrast a semi-serif with a serif, YOU FAIL. Add in the butt-ugly U.S. Cellular logo (which somehow manages to make Bodoni look bad!) and it looks like somebody ate the serif pages out of an old presstype book and puked all over their design.

Oh, and while we're talking about type, let's talk about the treatment. Why is the word "something" emphasized? Read that headline out loud: "Believe in something better." It sounds like life is a shit sandwich, and maybe someday something might possibly be better but it probably never will be. Why on earth did they not emphasize the word "better"?

2. Those Wavy Lines In The Upper Left-Hand Corner: Stroke Of Genius Or Design Aneurysm?

Looks like somebody's been watching the Illustrator tutorials on Smashing Magazine again...sigh. I mean, WTF does this have to do with the rest of the ad? Are the lines supposed to be cell phone radiation or something? They certainly don't represent a phone network because the lines don't intersect -- they're parallel. Dumbass.

3. What Are Little Girls Peeking Up Out Of The Inside Of Cardboard Boxes Made Of?

That photo...it's an ethnically-ambiguous girl with messed-up hair sitting inside a cardboard box with a big blue orb behind her. Let me say that again: It's an ethnically-ambiguous girl with messed-up hair sitting inside a cardboard box. What is this image supposed to be saying? That cell phones offer a brighter future for "those" people who live out of cardboard boxes in shanty towns? Is the giant, out-of-focus blue ball rolling towards her going to finally put the little girl out of her sad-sack misery? Not only does this photo not make sense in the context of a cell phone ad, it just plain doesn't make any goddamn sense in and of itself! [NOTE: Upon further inspection I discovered that the big blue orb was actually a result of my shitty camera. But that doesn't make this photo any more appropriate for the ad. So there.]

Please, designery people: we know you all hate your jobs and would rather be painting or sculpting or building all the useless shit you just learned about in Make™ Magazine during your daily B.M., but try to do the world a favor and maybe F*CKING THINK the next time you sit down to design something. Just for a couple of minutes even. Don't just slap together a company logo, a stock photo you got for free on a CD-ROM inside that one issue of Communication Arts you bought twelve years ago, your two favorite fonts of the week and an .eps file of the latest semi-hip illustrative tick you spent seven minutes learning how to incorporate into your "vernacular" and call it a design.

Christ on a crutch.


Blogger :> said...

I walk past this almost every day on my way to and from work, but some merciful part of my brain has refused to allow me to really look at it long enough to feel anything more than a vague sense of utter wrongness before I hurry on.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Michael Knight said...

Great Post...though you missed a golden opportunity to link to a recent Chicago Public Radio story about designers quiting their jobs, hmmmm.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Gene K. said...

I love font analysis.

I hate shitty design.

I love this post.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand you not liking the design or concept of it, but before you start ripping apart the billboard, understand what the company represents before these comments are made. As a graphic design graduate myself, I do appreciate the design and due to knowing what the company stands for, it takes it in a whole new direction.

4:32 PM  
Blogger John Eats said...

@Anonymous: Care to let the rest of our audience in on the fact that you posted your pro-design comment from a PC with a U.S. Cellular I.P. address? Were you on the clock when you wrote this? At least have the cojones to admit you're a shill for the company before you go anonymously defending a shitty design.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do work for the company. I do have cojones... well, not litterally. I have to say that I agree with your analysis JE.


8:04 PM  

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