Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "bad design"

Ugly is the New Pretty

Ray Drainville

There’s an interesting article in Design Observer about the fairly recent trend in ugly design—nasty colour combinations, stretched type & a lot of other characteristics considered no-nos of good design.

The development of this style—perhaps we should call it “anti-design”, even though its proponents claim it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done—seems to be a reaction to the prevalence of overly-clean (and potentially overly restrictive) design as covered in the documentary Helvetica.

Michael Bierut makes a good point about negative reactions to the design:

If you’re familiar with art and design, you know the perils of condemning the shock of the new. After all, no one wants to risk being one of the bourgoisie sneering at the unveiling of Les Mademoiselles D’Avignon (sic) or booing at the debut of Le Sacre du Printemps.

I’ve always disliked people who try to paint critics with such a brush—it’s a response calculated just to shut you up, not to provoke any debate. But it’s one thing to be provocative in your work & quite another to be heedless to anything that’s actually attractive.

Time will tell whether this new trend—redolent of the early days of PageMaker & Quark design with its “ransom letter” font choice & squeezed typography—will actually last. I can’t help but wonder why we’re caught in this same spiral of reaction & counter-reaction: restrictive design vs. unfettered, even unschooled, design. We’re stuck learning & un-learning the same lessons: we’re fighting old men’s wars. After all, it’d be nice to create something new, wouldn’t it?