#InspirationFriday: Design vs. Practicality

This Inspiration Friday is going to be a down and dirty one. One of the most important lessons you will learn the further you get into your creative process will be: “Who is my audience?” or more importantly “Who is my client?”

I know what you’re doing right now, and that’s sharpening your pitchforks ready to combat the fact that I have said the client is more important than the audience. In an idealistic world, yes the audience is more important, but in reality the client is the one who will allow it to be approved for the audience to see or not.

If you ever speak to any designer they will have countless stories to tell you how their original idea was rejected by the client, even though when they self test the creative work the intended audience approved. And it baffles the creative person sparking an accounts vs. creative rivalry. You’ll see it everywhere.

But what both of these parties fail to understand (myself included) is that there is really, sincerely, one only comparison: Design vs. Practicality.

Is the product design heavy with no practical use or is it very practical but hideously unappealing? Or is it balanced? Hopefully its the third, but it is hard to come to that agreement.

Let’s have a look at the CNN lower third redesign (pictured above) compared to the current graphic (pictured below).

Now I’ll accept that the two lower thirds are from different shows on the network, but the styles are the same.

So how does the Design vs. Practicality questions perform here? I wish it was easy to say a clear winner, but there are pros and cons of each.

Firstly, in the redesign the new font face allows for a fresh approach so the design choice is directed to this. However, the 90% title safe area of the redesign doesn’t take place, and if televisions are incorrectly set up text will be missing. But this is where it gets tricky since the current layout CNN watermark is well out of the 90% area – so is it acceptable or not? What it does raise though is the fact that CNN clearly doesn’t have a guideline for it, causing the design to fall. With this, it causes the network to fall in looking professional which I’ve discussed is important to brand identity.

The 90% title safe area is crossed by the text (not by much though)

On top of this is the positioning of the CNN logo in the redesign. Not only is it cleaner, larger, and more vibrant with a colour switch, but it too can serve as the positioning for the network watermark when it cuts away from the lower third in shot. This will alleviate the terrible thing that’s happening in the current lower third – double CNN logos.

The flat design of the redesign is amazing. It’s clear that if this were to be CNN’s new design it would reflect their ability to follow the current audience (who is their client). It also moves away from the metallic look and what I see is the 2000s website design craze.

The final point I want to draw your attention to is the blur effect in the redesign lower third compared to the transparent white texture in the current lower third. This is a huge practical defect in the redesign since lower thirds are normally a static graphic or pre-rendered animation. The ability to apply blur is not a process that is viable (or practical) for lower thirds – it doesn’t add anything except visual appeal, so not worth on-the-fly rendering.

These are just a few dissections of the two that I think reflects the Design vs. Practicality aspect when you are on your quest to create something. You’re first step should be to ask what the people who use this (your client) will need, what they current do have, and what the want (which can be implemented).

Asking these questions allow not only efficiency in your work, but something I think is far more valuable. Finding a way to make a boring item more appealing with only what is possible. Like making an amazing, visually appealing, artistic resumé using only Microsoft Word not Photoshop. Or trying to recreate a shot of a film without getting the exact some equipment as the original. It goes all back to the original, out of box thinking process.