This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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11 July 2014

How to pick a really, really good designer

Lynda in front of the wall that Alexander Rose designed for Write.

In our 23+ years of business we've worked with more than a few designers. And it's fair to say we've infuriated some and fallen in love with others! Lately it's the latter.

We found Alexander Rose and love them because they 'get' what we do. More importantly, they 'get' good design. We already knew Philippa Dawe, creator of the popular seminar 'Who Shot the Serif'. But once we saw Alexander Rose's sponsored design work for the Plain English Awards, we wanted some too.

We couldn't agree more with Philippa's brilliant take on good design. She says,
Good design has the power to differentiate, innovate, simplify and resonate.
Good design strips away unnecessary noise, getting quickly to the heart of what should be said or experienced. People — even smart people — don’t have the capacity or time to take in more than a couple of messages. This means that the messages we give them, must really matter. They must matter to the organisation they’re coming from, and they must matter to the person it’s going to. This means really caring about your audience.
Achieving simplicity in design is deceptive, because making a work of design appear effortless, means a great deal of work behind the scenes. We spend a great deal of time understanding what drives audiences and how they feel. We always explore as many creative options as possible and continually iterate ideas and visual solutions. The end result should answer both the business goals of our client and the needs of their customers.
I love Phillipa's comment about stripping away 'unnecessary noise' and 'quickly getting to the heart of what should be said or experienced'. So often we find ourselves gently pointing out to a client's designer that their creative work is obscuring, rather than supporting or conveying the all-important messages. I must confess we get upset when 'design' seems to be poured over the text with scant regard for the message or even for legibility. Nine point white text on a red background doesn't work. Really! Nor do very fancy fonts, low contrast colours, loads of block capitals, and most watermarks under text.

So how do you pick a really, really good designer? Put them to the test. Listen to what they say. Look at their work and ask yourself 'what's the key message in this piece? Does the design help or hinder that message? Look out for the big hints in Philippa's words. She talks about the importance of messages, audience, simplicity, caring, and your business goal. A really, really good designer will naturally and animatedly talk about those things — and they'll get excited when they hear those words from you too.

Thanks Philippa and Darren. We love your work! And that includes our beautiful new reception wall pictured above.

By Lynda Harris

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