Whatever Happened to Clarity?

Had lunch with a friend today at Edelweiss.
I consider it a good lunch if we can just catch up with each other.
One of those topics we broached was business since she runs her own business too. As a copywriter, she helps clients produce clear content either through writing, editing, proofreading or translation into European languages.
Whether it is in design or writing, clarity is never to be underestimated. And we both felt that today’s communication isn’t doing its job because a good piece of design or writing should immediately let the consumer know what’s needed and what’s the next step.
It is a bad piece if I pick up a flyer and don’t know what to make of it. What does this business sell? What is it trying to tell me, assuming there’s something to be told?
She recounted how she saw a flyer which incidentally advertised a friend’s business. The flyer wasn’t clear enough and she thought she would do her friend a favour and let him know what could be improved.
All she got was a curt thanks.
He never appreciated her advice and thought she was trying to ‘sell’ him her copywriting service.
Which is a pity because if only he acted on her advice, he would be connecting better with his prospects.
When I get junk mail/ junk flyers in my postbox, I give them a perfunctory glance and chuck them aside to be recycled.
I don’t bother.
Unless the flyer is so good and compelling.
Which most times aren’t.
All I see these days are flyers crammed full of colours, shapes, photos but paltry text. Not a shred of information.
Yes, yes, it’s good for the creatives but tell me, what is your product and why should I even care?
Far too many creative types think creating/designing a flyer with the colours of the rainbow is what consumers want to see.
What happened to real communication, the basis of design?
What happened to clarity?
What is the flyer/brochure trying to sell?
Once, Nic’s friend asked,” Why is it that you English-ed types like to have things plain and white?”
(This guy likes his brochure splashed with colours that boggle the mind. Bright pink, yellow, green. It’s like a candy store.)
I wonder if the type of schooling affects how we design or how we appreciate design.
You know, white space for most people is a waste of space.
Every inch of the flyer MUST be covered in colour or design. Otherwise, wasted lah all that money I pay to the designer.
I call these Jinjang Joe design.
Just because you know all the Photoshop tricks doesn’t mean you have to use everything!
And on top of that, the flyer has no worthy content! That’s the worst crime of all.
If there’s content, be afraid. Be very afraid because somehow there’s bound to be some weird sentences. Weird because they’re translated literally from Mandarin or BM or Tamil. Or spelling so bad it’s hilarious.
I am not trying to be mean or nasty but designers should always understand what they’re trying to do with their design.
So this friend of mine is considering using a blog to help people along to see how bad copy can be improved.
Yes, do that, I tell her. Most people don’t know what rubbish is like.
By highlighting such ‘junk’ on her blog, maybe people will sit up and take content seriously, instead of it now being a stepchild to design. And maybe, her friend won’t be so supercilious. Oh and I advised her to charge for her advice too. Free advice is often sneered at and undervalued.
Design and copy must go together. Good design is enhanced by good copy.
What do you think? Do you cringe when people write badly? Would you correct them or would you let them be?

4 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Clarity?”

  1. I wonder about it most of the time too. These days advertising campaign did not send clear message on what they are actually selling. Some brochures, like you said, did word for word translation. I usually have a good laugh at the absurdity. ๐Ÿ™

  2. True. And it’s a sad waste right? That no one understands what the advertising campaign is. Most times it’s not only flyers but also TV ads which have become so bloody abstract that I am left guessing about the content and what exactly I’m trying to see in the ad. All the funkiest stuff and animation don’t mean anything – have you realized how Maxis is now coming back to basics in its Opera Mini advert on TV? Using paper cut outs! And does anyone misunderstand? I don’t think so. Simple? Yes. Get the message across? Yes. If an ad does not communicate, I say, off with the heads of those in charge ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. this post suddenly came to my head in my accounts tutorial class. I think it might have to do with social class. The general working class mentality is the more the better and don’t waste. For example, a job that pays more is better and don’t waste food. In this example, the more colours the better and no white spaces allowed.
    For those who come for a middle class background, substance would be more important. Quantity is of a less importance now if compared to quality. We want better food instead of more food and we want to live more well-roundedly rather than lavishly. In this case, we want to see substance and the strength of the content rather than la-la colours.
    It’s just a sudden opinion. What do you think?

  4. u-jean: Interesting idea. Maybe so. Maybe we are used to food, so we want better tasting food. That’s another way of viewing it. I read a book today which says “buy better, not buy more”. The author says that if we want better stuff, we must not settle for poor quality goods. It’s better if we buy an expensive suit (made of better material) which can last longer, won’t go out of style, and with a better fit compared to a cheaper suit which might just go out of style in 1 year. For me, my family used to go for buffets (when I was young) and we used to pig out. Now that I am all grown up and earning my own money, I prefer ala carte compared to buffet! You are right about quality. Once I can get to eat whatever I want to eat, I want to eat good food only. Quality food. Sometimes I even buy organic vegetables from Jusco! ๐Ÿ˜‰


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