Good Design is Often Subtractive


proper design, much like personal growth, isn't additive, it's subtractive

proper design, much like personal growth, isn't additive, it's subtractive

When the very nice people from the Partners for Rabies Prevention, a consortium that includes people from World Rabies Day (who’s logo was created by a friend of mine, Curt Wommack), The Alliance for Rabies Control, and a slew of others, the key wasn’t to make some garish statement, rather, the logo was to be used globally with a clean, simple, message. 

My research for the logo (any designer who doesn’t do research to get a full grasp on their client and their needs should be serving fries or mopping floors, you’re a hack) included getting data on rabies and wrapping my head around statistics such as: Rabies kills 55,000 people worldwide a year, that’s more than many diseases people consider much more scary, some thousand times more than say swine or avian bird flu, but I guess it’s not as sexy. Perhaps because those deaths to the western world are “over there,” i.e. Africa and Asia, as in, to many in the west who turn their back “them,” not tangible, not their problem.

Specifically it comes back to rural areas in those regions and, taking it a step further, families and/or potentially kids petting a suddenly friendly wild do, then being bitten, though there’s a host of scenarios. If you had to narrow it down to a (one) type of wild dog, Lycaon, or African Wild Dog. Why does any of this matter? That’s what’s pictured in the logo I created above. 

Next, Africa and Asia have very specific palettes both in terms of landscape and what people see, including the art they use. What I did is take a large sample swatch of said art and then did a color palette sampling of colors most common to the most hard hit areas, and created a number of logos (not shown) based on those same colors. As in, commonality to those hard hit areas. Design can also be tricky, you don’t want the colors or characters to represent any one ethnic culture or people too much either, there’s quite a bit of balance, if not restraint to this process. The logo will be used the world over, but to target the design, keep it topical, make the logo based on the tangible to the problem is often a good idea where possible. What not to do is base the logo on ego or favorite colors or whatnot, which, this is lost not just many designers, but especially on many clients who put their tastes in front of logic (all too often), good designers rarely do that, we put logic in front of our tastes. That is, in fact, why clients need to stop armchair quarterbacking good designers, you don’t see designers telling clients how to do their jobs, so don’t tell designers how to do theirs. 

Finally, always the tricky part, text and wording. This is tricky because of what’s known as localization, that is, there’s countless languages around the world, and type (copy) has to be turned into something that can work in not just western-based languages, but potentially cyrillic, middle eastern, asian, a whole slew of languages. Leave plenty of room, always. This has been a mistake of lesser designers.

At the end of the day clean, well placed and thought out design will always trump cramped, superfluous, overtly arty accessorized design every time. Not only for the client, but most importantly, the enduser who’s going to see it.