Tag Archive for: Co.Design

Popular LiesGraphic design is fond of truisms. It might be partially because designers kind of cling to the few hard-and-fast rules we hear, or maybe we just let these common sayings get into our minds just like we internalize trends and styles. Either way, ask any twenty-something about graphic design and you will probably hear one of a handful of well-propagated lies.

“Comic Sans is the worst font ever,” is probably the one you’re most familiar with. There are entire blogs devoted to documenting and chiding every use of Comic Sans that the creator finds. Searching Comic Sans on Tumblr is just a stream of childish remarks insulting a typeface like “You should be ashamed of yourself, you used Comic Sans for the give-away and it hurts me to see” and hilarious tags like “#comic sans is the devil”.

According to Craig Ward, Comic Sans “is the typographic equivalent of an innocent man on death row.” It’s not a pretty font. That is fair. It isn’t “sophisticated” like many perceive Helvetica to be. But, what about all the other terrible handwriting fonts no one talks about? The illegible, the illogical, and other fonts that no one will devote a blog to?

Comic Sans shouldn’t be used on a high level brand by any means, and it may offend the pretentious palette  but it actually serves a purpose. Comic Sans is more easily readable for people with dyslexia, which makes the use of the font on every office note ever make a little more sense, and there have to be some fonts for childlike designs.

The Comic Sans truism isn’t the only one running wild through graphic design. I’ve quoted the old “less is more” philosophy more than once, and I’ve subconsciously adopted plenty others. None of that makes them any more true however. Most truisms aren’t. That’s why Craig Ward decided to take them on in his pocket-sized book Popular Lies About Graphic Design. He covers the Comic Sans debate, but he also challenges many other age old graphic design beliefs. He shared seven lies and his arguments against them over at Co.Design.

For users, the biggest factor in whether they will stay on a page is the usability and user experience of the page. They want it to look pretty, obviously, but even the nicest looking pages don’t keep their visitors unless the page functions the way they want.

There are hundreds of thousands of books about web design and user experience (UX), and even textbooks preaching specific ways to guide users throughout a site. So why does a site that breaks every rule of design continuously draw scores of news seekers and win design awards all over the place?

Mail Online is a British tabloid-type of news source with celebrity gossip, indignant moral opinion pieces, and of course “coverage” of breaking news. The recent Oscar Pistorious case held the same pagespace as a headline about Amanda Bynes. The site is also heavily addicting, even for those like me who try to be picky about their news sources. It outperforms almost every major news website including The New York Times and Britain’s The Guardian.

Mail Online’s disregard for traditional web design rules is apparent from their scrolltastic front page, which would be close to four foot long if printed out and laid end to end. They draw reader’s immediately by removing all advertising on the front page and doubling the rate of ads everywhere else.

The news source’s site is like a maze that you can’t ever be totally lost in. Sidebars have over 50 stories, each with images, and a visitor can end up pages deep before they realize they haven’t been to the front page, but they don’t feel lost. The feeling is similar to Wikipedia’s site structure where visitors follow links down the rabbit hole, but are still connected with almost every navigational tool the front page offers.

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan explored Mail Online’s rule-breaking design innovation more at Co.Design. I’m unsure whether this type of rule breaking is actually good for web design, but I have always been attached to overly designed styles which emphasize aesthetics. Mail Online suggests that aesthetics may actually be holding back design.