Like most intelligent, amazing people out there, I was rooting for the Seahawks this year (did I just lose half of you? Good ;). Hey, I’m from Seattle, so I have to root for them. Anyway, I’m sure you all are well aware of that last, horrific,
The Seahawks were four points down, but it was their ball. They were like, 3 millimeters from the line with two whole minutes to go. I, along with everyone else, thought: they got this. It’s a done deal. Slam dunk.
What was that? I felt the Seahawks’ pain. I felt their fan’s pain. Unbelievable flop in the history of football. And I don’t even watch football.
Why on earth would the coach make that call? They were practically guaranteed the Super bowl win, if only they played it safe. If only.
But the coach decided to make it…interesting. Big mistake.
And it got me thinking.
A lot of times, in graphic design, I’m tempted to do the same thing, too. Granted, the stakes aren’t nearly as high. But, you know, I get tired and bored of making the same ole, safe design choices. Things that I know will work, but are just so…boring.
I want to spice it up a little. Try something…a little more edgy. A little more risqué. But it usually comes at the expense of my client and their business.
Sometimes it’s a touchdown. Most of the time it falls flat, like that awkward pass.
For example, let’s say my client needs to appeal to a more affluent crowd. The safe play is to stick with a more neutral color palette, and traditional typefaces. Conservative layout. Yawn.
The exciting thing to do would be something completely out of the ordinary, like bright orange and green. Hey, rich people are hip too! But that would probably completely backfire, and would have the opposite effect. All because I was bored with the tried and true method.
Now, I’m not saying designers should never push boundaries. That’s our middle name.
But what I am saying is, for most small businesses out there, they simply can’t afford to take the chance of trying something completely out of left field. So a lot of what I do is pretty ordinary. And hey, I’ve become okay with that. It pays the bills, and it works. It gets the job done, and it’s effective.
One thing I find interesting, again when we compare design to football, is in the risk versus reward. Throwing the ball—instead of running it—and pushing the line with design both have great potential reward. You eat up a lot of yards, getting closer to the goal. You can make an impact, change the world, and become famous. But it also carries great risk. Your ball can be intercepted, fall into the wrong hands. All that hard work, down the drain.
Design-wise, that super cool idea could fall flat or even have a negative impact on the company. Thousands, even millions in profits could be lost.
For example, years ago, Tropicana tried to rebrand its famous orange juice packaging design. They wanted to move away from their traditional straw in the orange design, and replace it with a more modern, simplistic one. There was a huge pushback, and their stock fell. They quickly changed it back to the original. Now, this isn’t obscenely “crazy” risky design, but it was out of the blue and not carefully thought out. A lot like that play.
Sometimes though, design risks pay off. I’m reminded of FedEx, back when they were still called Federal Express. They were redesigning their logo, and found out that people were already calling them FedEx, which sounded a lot nicer and user-friendly. So they ran with it, which led to their iconic logo design.
Sometimes design risks pay off. Big time. Click To Tweet
The name has since stuck, and they are one of the most successful and internationally recognized companies in the world. But it was a risk at the time to go by a shorthand of their name.
So, the takeaway from this year’s Super Bowl? Stick with what works. As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m not speaking for all designers out there, but I know this applies to me more often than not.
What I’m not saying is to never take risks, especially those small, calculated risks. Those should be a regular thing in our lives. Just don’t go and do a Super Bowl blunder, when everything’s riding on you not screwing up.
What did you take away from Super Bowl 2015? What areas are you tempted to take too great a risk in? What do you find works in your line of business…and what doesn’t?