By Will Novosedlik
November 6, 2017
The value of thoughtful design, exemplified
I get my hair cut by a wonderful young woman whose real passion is a charity she founded a few years ago. As a Vietnamese refugee who came here in the early ’80s, she has never forgotten her homeland and travels there every year on a mission to save children from human traffickers. It’s dangerous work—she needs to disguise herself as a young man to avoid being kidnapped herself. I am constantly humbled by her courage and dedication.
So the other day I was in for my cut and she mentioned to me that she was very excited to finally be getting a logo designed for her organization. I asked her who was doing it for her, and she said, “some company called Fever . . . er . . . Fivver?” And then I said, “You mean fiverr.com?”
Indeed, she did. I asked her if she was happy with the work. She said, well, it’s not too unique, but it’s better than nothing. To which I said, well, you can’t expect unique for five bucks. “Five bucks?” she asked. “I paid twenty-five bucks for that!”
I remarked that had I known she was looking for something, I could have found her a good designer who would have done it pro bono, while I would have happily pitched in with brand strategy and key messaging.
More than once has this column wailed against the damage done by such online purveyors of graphic trafe such as Vistaprint and fiverr.com, the dollar stores of design. And, like Dollarama, they are ironically the most profitable vendors in their category. Sad, but painfully true.
All the more reason to celebrate those increasingly rare occasions when an accomplished designer produces something that actually is unique. Such a one is Toronto-based David Thorne, whose recent work for the Trillium Gift of Life Network is an excellent demonstration of the value a seasoned and sensitive designer can bring to the table.
The Trillium Gift of Life Network is the charitable organization responsible for Ontario’s organ donor program. You can see in the above before-and-after image the immense improvements made to the original design. The original is not only missing the name of the organization, but is impossible to scale owing to its use of a photographic flower. Thorne skilfully integrated the flower into the shape of the green ribbon, making it a more graphic image that capitalizes on the tension between negative and positive. A secondary tension between the flatness of the flower and the subtly gradated ribbon imparts a sense of depth and dimension at the same time. Now the whole thing scales smoothly, giving the mark far more utility and range of application.
Not to sound too picky, but at first I was not that impressed by the choice of typeface. Then I saw it on the mobile platform and thought, ah, good selection.
All in all, a very satisfying exercise in visual identity design. And while I realize that it’s unfair to compare the work of a highly skilled designer to the mediocre products of the dollar-store-design vendors, it doesn’t hurt to remember that even though the business models are wildly divergent, the automated “el cheapo” versions are doing nothing to promote the value of visual communications design.
Will Novosedlik likes playing in traffic at the intersections of business, brand, design and innovation. He's worked both as a consultant and client on brands such as Telus, TD Bank, Bata International, Williams-Sonoma, Vodafone and Deutsche Telecom in Canada, the US, North Africa and Europe.
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