Graphic designers, think about the message you are conveying through your art.

A few months back I saw a poster for an event which pertained to making ourselves better people. The poster featured beautiful typography befitting the occasion, and an elegant decorative border too. In an effort to convey an idea of classical authenticity, the designer had chosen an antique paper background. It could have worked, but the chosen specimen was badly blotched and deteriorated, dark and unappealing. To me it gave a horrible impression of a dismal event.

This evening I came across a poster featuring a crumpled paper background. Such an effect has its place, but not here when you’re advertising a course that’s going to have a positive impact on people’s lives. If you handed around meeting notes at work which looked like that, you’d be booted out the door. If you handed in homework which looked like that, it would be thrown back in your face. As a potential student I want to know that the organisers care. First impressions count. Don’t hand me a poster which looks like it got trampled on and forgotten.

I like skeuomorphic design – in its place. But done badly, it can kill your message in the minds of your audience, ever before they have had a chance to read the all-important details.

Graphic design is the art of communication, not the art of messing about with special effects.