Sometimes you think you’ve seen and heard it all as a designer… but then something or someone comes along and effortlessly surprises you with their sheer stupidity, ignorance, or bizarre belief systems.
Take the recent example of an icon design for a series of iPhone apps.
It’s all going swimmingly.
The design process is progressing nicely, with the icons crafted to show some “luscious” background variations along with a stylishly cropped company logo and some text that would identify each individual app (just about as much text as you could ever hope to fit on an icon!). The name of the app series would go below the icon (like the Angry Birds apps or the like).
Anyone who has ever designed icons knows that the process involves lots of mock ups before a rock solid vector (or large bitmap) master file is created that can be resized and tweaked for all the the different device requirements.
And this is the stage we had reached. 6 apps all had master files with icons that were polished and tested on various devices to show that we could JUST about read the big text that identified the app.
To market and search for the apps, a website was in the works that would showcase the apps using the aforementioned finalised icons in a nice layout linking to the App Store. Mock-up pages were even made showing the icons in place on the various iTunes and App Store pages where the apps would appear (complete with info and marketing spiel).
All good, and pretty much the exemplar for how design (in a perhaps hesitant but reasonably focused company) usually works. It’s a series of steps working towards a goal that takes time and requires each step to be agreed and signed off. Hopefully each step produces something better or more appropriate than before, and once you start reaching the goal, 100% focus is required to make everything “just so”.
And we were nearly there.
Now the twist.
At the point that the icon testing was nearing completion, the app did not actuallyhave a name.
Yep, no one was able to decide on the name all the way through the design process.
The icon went ahead anyway, because icons don’t usually have the app name on them. Like all good icons, they were to represent the app series using colour and a recognisable logo or graphic. That app series name would just be written underneath. (Perhaps we should have refused to work on a nameless app icon, but who has that luxury! Look at a thousand icons and you will find very few with the app name in the icon itself).
Eventually there is last minute board meeting to decide on the (eminently forgettable) name… and then …and then.
The name of the app needs to be on the icon.
But not only that, the company name and logo need to be there, and the specific subject of the app and then the level (e.g. beginners/intermediate/expert or easy/hard) of the app.
Let’s count them up again; 1 Logo; 2 Company Name; 3 App Name; 4 Topic Name; 5 User level; plus colour identity, and some luscious modern designer-y goodness. All on a tiny little iPhone icon.
STOP STOP STOP, you’re killing me.
This is where it hits you. Some people making those design decisions really have some strange ideas. I mean REALLY odd. The expectations of what you can actually achieve with designs has no connection with the reality of the project. Demands will be made for options that can NEVER work given the chosen medium. In the worst case, you may end up showing printed options for a poster or book cover that will be signed off to be used as a tiny icon. Ughh!
So how do you work with this sort of idiotic tomfoolery. After years and years in the design business, I still don’t know! But I do know why some companies ship and others are just shi…
I’ll stop there.