The functionality of the mass mailout

Yesterday I posted an essay from Underconsideration about pizza flyers, and the need to design for a target audience. Today you get my opinion.

So are there good pizza designs?

Pizza flyers are usually horribly designed, but its a utilitarian sort of thing relying on function, rather than aesthetics. It could be pretty or as ugly as they are now and it wouldn’t change a thing. Personally I enter the numbers into my phone and, baring a useful coupon, throw it away immediately. You could say the same thing about club specialty night flyers taped up on streetlights all over campus–its all Photoshop effects that make me gag. Usually these flyers feature a scantily clad girl who is in some sort of revolting position, and I freely admit I’ve got a feminist streak.

This is why Andrew Williams’ Bluprint dance party flyers are so successful. I recognized those posters before I recognized he made them because they are the exact opposite of the other club flyers:  single giant blue B*. It got my attention only being what the other posters are not. The pizza is a cheap, overly consumed product of freeze dried substances so the design aesthetic of course will be cheap, stock image blandness to match the bland taste. If you took a pizza flyer and applied it to a restaurant featuring five-course cuisine people would FREAK OUT! In design, as in math, x does not always equal y, and Bauhaus, etc., isn’t the right audience for mainstream America.

Design is in the strange, and often unwieldy, position where one must straddle the gap between the refined pallet we’ve acquired in class with what needs design around us. Not everything will be so high brow. Not everything should be low brow. We have to find the right audience, analyze it, and dismiss stereotypes before the first sketch is drawn to insure we are on the right path. Once the playing field has been established, only then can we create “good” design.

From there what makes a design good is really in the eye of the beholder. But there are rules to adhere to make the design flourish. A particular hue may have one meaning in this culture and probably means something else entirely in another society. The visual elements must always support design in such a way that it pushes the underlying message forward, but if there isn’t an audience then there isn’t a message.

*Bluprint will host an event tomorrow night at the Zydeco in Birmingham, Ala.

Your thoughts?


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