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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

I have a graphic design fantasy

I have a graphic design fantasy

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by Josh Rivera, The Graphic Designer

So I’m designing an ad for a designer dishwashing liquid. I shouldn’t be surprised; if a thing exists, there will invariably be someone who is passionate about it to an obsessive, self-destructive end. One needs little justification for marketing a designer dishwashing liquid. But I always thought the ideal dishwashing liquid was one I couldn’t discern, which leaves no trace of its use on dinner plates, leaving the meal unmolested by hints of chamomile and lemon zest. Wouldn’t a distinguishable designer dishwashing liquid therefore be undesirable?

I’m rummaging through some magazines aimed at a wealthier readership. The visual tropes of luxury are known by even a casual observer at a glance. Photography that adheres all too well to the golden ratio (which doesn’t actually exist no matter how many snail shells you want to transpose onto paintings), the frothy cream of bokeh lights or the smoky chiaroscuro shadows (depending on the level of accessibility you feel like implying for your luxury item), and barring all else, a woman whose eyeliner rests beneath an ambiguous expression. I think her gaze is intentionally blank, so the viewer can project their own neurosis on her. For what it’s worth, I think most models are full of contempt for their observer or are hungry.

So. A woman, bathed in light seeping through geometric patterns. She is holding a gallon of dishwashing liquid. The dress she is wearing has sleeves which fold into each other like a tesseract. She hates you. Your heart pangs for something that will never come.

People will buy that.

Since I was younger, I’d consume a lot of magazines, so I’ve seen a lot of print ads growing up. They’re a different beast entirely from the material that smaller businesses require. The ads of a Mom & Pop are more utilitarian; they’re meant to list a variety of services they offer, promote any timely specials, and list contact information, so working all of that into an ad while including distinctive visual elements is a balancing act. Admittedly, I’ve even adopted a few formulaic techniques which save time to the possible detriment of the ads; name of business goes here, services go here, address and phone number go there, use a serif font header and a sans serif font for body, relevant photo somewhere in the middle. Tie it all together.  The job is done.

The Mad Men-esque magazine ads I’m used to are a bit more confident than that, but they serve a different purpose. You don’t need an address to visit the luxury bathroom furnishings manufacturer; you just need the name, the look, and the brand impression. Newspaper ads, like newspaper articles, are required to condense a lot of pertinent information in a convenient package for dissemination. So graphic designers have to be especially clever.

My personal favorite ad in this very paper might just be the Vapor Hut ad in the Service Directory just because its layout is a little more ambitious, using diagonals to try to maximize space. The same goes for the MyStylist ad, which recently got a revision, as well as the Barlow’s ad, which I wanted to give a worn, workman-like quality to despite its relatively small real estate in the paper itself.  More ads need self-assured cute girls wearing cute things in the bleak snow, though.

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