In 2007 when London unveiled its £800,000 2012 Olympics logo design, everyone hated it.
To make things worse, Iran threatened to boycott the Olympics. Iran's National Olympic Committee said that the logo was racist. They thought it spelled out "Zion".
In 2010, US attorney Sean Flammer ran a fun experiment. He sent two excerpts from a potential pleading to 800 judges across the US. Each judge received the original ‘legalese’ version, a plain-English version and a survey. The survey asked the judges to pick which of the two writing samples was more persuasive.
Ready to be shocked?
The judges preferred the plain-English version to the original by 66% to 34%. And that preference held no matter their age, gender or background. But perhaps most telling were the judges’ comments. Several wrote that the plain-English version was more persuasive because of the succinctness of its argument. One judge even said that it was “simpler, more direct prose. Getting to the point trumps pontificating any day.”
What do these two stories have in common?
The London 2012 Olympic logo is a classic example of a basic rule most designers tend to forget. Your work must talk to human beings. Which is exactly the same basic rule that most copywriters tend to forget.
We, copywriters, often think that using simple and clear language is a sign of low intelligence. Why? Because we're afraid that we might lose authority if we write and sound like a 4th grader. That's why most copywriters avoid using simple and clear language. That's why they end writing copy for the writer, not for the reader.
That's also why most copywriting sucks. And doesn't work. The same thing happens with designers.
Many designers forget that design is a form of communication. And that good design is a language, not a style.
But many designers focus on dumb things like styles and trends. They design things "to look cool".
The result? The majority of logos, packaging or websites they design are abstract, unclear or puzzling. Most of all, they're uncommunicative. They forget to focus on what's the BIG message they're supposed to communicate.
So what's the lesson here?
Good design is like good copywriting. If you're trying to persuade people to do something, the best way to do it is to use their language. The same kind of language they use every day. So don't design things to impress other designers or the client.
Design for the customer and don't forget that your work must talk to human beings.