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Stunt Design: Don’t Do It!

Crossing the blogs the last few months were a couple examples of stunt product design. While design agencies might think this is a good idea, a way to get some press, and design without that pesky restraint of clients, the solutions provided tend to be wholly unsatisfactory.

Pentagram did themselves no favors their imaginings of future Apple products, which seems mostly about playing mp3s (a Podwatch! A wireless iPod! a vPod! a phone that plays… mp3s!). Nadav’s comments (“surprisingly weak”) summed up what I heard elsewhere.

Getting notice of late was Slate’s sponsorship of redesigns of the new food pyramid. They invited a bunch of hotshot designers to submit ideas. For some reason, the blogosphere has been far kinder to this effort. (I’m guessing it’s because it’s more fun to make fun of the government.) In looking over the proposed solutions, though, they, too, are “surprisingly weak.”

Perhaps the most bizarre entry, given that the government’s pyramid was faulted for being non-intuitive, is the following image from Stone|Yamashita:

Maybe it’s because Stone|Yamashita doesn’t really do consumer-facing graphic design, and maybe the CEOs to whom they speak love quirky elements like footprints, but this drawing is almost a parody of self-satisfied graphic design.

So what purpose does this exercise serve? Slate wanted to provide a poke in the eye of the USDA, but the government walks away looking okay, because their designs aren’t so bad, in comparison. If such leading firms are producing such shallow efforts, why would a potential purchaser of design spend their money on it?

  1. It is very frustrating to see how superficial all these design solutions are. As you said, it makes the original seem not so bad, which defeats the purpose of the whole exercise and actually diminishes the impact of making a point about the importance of good design. A disservice to us all.

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