Designing Pretty Words

Ashleigh Hotz - Senior Graphic Designer


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“Just make it look pretty.” The words that have escaped the lips of a coworker or client during a creative briefing.

For a split second, my skin crawls and my eye twitches. As a designer, I hear this type of language used often. I find it mostly innocent (by ignorance). Let me explain.

Design is a specialization. Great design requires creative strategy; it’s grounded conceptually; its visual success is found in aesthetic principals; and it’s impossible to get the exact idea out that you conjured up in your head, but you do your best.

When you specialize in something, you can’t assume everyone else knows what you know or expect them to use even the same language you’ve come to use. Speaking of language (pun intended), I think that’s what concerns me the most about this phrase we’ve zeroed in on. Read it again… “Just     make     it     look     pretty.” The offending word is pretty.

I’ve thought about some witty ways to take this to a whole new literal level. Perhaps a brochure with lipstick and rouge on it…? All kidding aside, language is important. That’s an understatement – language is massively, immensely, and incredibly critical. It has influence written all over it. The words that we use have the ability to leave a lasting impression on those who have received them.

In the book The Human Brand, authors Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske make the argument (through extensive research) that people relate to companies, brands, and even inanimate products in the same way that we naturally perceive, judge, and behave toward one another. Think about the tech giant, Apple. If you were to personify Apple, what would it look like? It’s actually already been done.  Apple used actor Justin Long to portray a young, cool, easy-going Apple, in an attempt to appeal to their demographic.

Think about this in terms of the business or organization you are a part of. Who are you, what is your character? Then take a step closer and locate examples of your conclusion. What does it say? What is the company’s voice? Are the words your company uses effectively communicating your unique product/service or position in the market? More importantly, is your voice or language perceived as you are intending?

I know “Make it look pretty” was never intended to be condescending, but rather was the statement from someone who hadn’t yet mastered the language of design. Oh, and if these words ever begin to roll off your tongue, maybe just ask your designer to “design” it.

Questions or comments? Please contact Ashleigh Hotz at ahotz@teamCOACT.com