Not award-winning, but life-winning.

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in views | 2 Comments

There are broadly two types of design: the first are those that are crafted to stand out brilliantly to catch your attention, invoke self-reflection, touch your emotions, or generate some reaction, by grabbing you instantly on the spot and creating strong recall. Generally award-winning pedigree because they take you out of your current paradigm to marvel, agree/disagree, and feel something new.

The second type is the above’s unglamorous cousin. These designs are simple, do not take you out of your paradigm, but goes under your radar as you go about doing your thing. They can never win any awards because they do not contain any clever headline, witty visual or funny punchline. But these are the designs that are the hardest to execute and master. And these are the ones I love. Because they work. And they are what effective communication is all about.

These designs are “forgettable”. They do not stop you in your tracks and scream “Look at me! I have something really witty to say!”, but quietly complements your life at the background, without you noticing, because they are already a part of what you are doing. And therein lies their strongest merit: they enhance they way we live, our daily way of lives, so much so that we do not pay much attention to it.

If you are walking around a new shopping mall, you are enjoying the experience partly because you are able to navigate around easily without conscious frustration. The best wayfinders and visual signages complement your experience, so much so that you don’t notice them. If you are not convinced yet, think about the times when you are urgently in need of the toilet but were unable to find one due to bad wayfinders. We remember bad design. But we conveniently forget good ones because they are so unobtrusive and are weaved into our visual journey and total experience.

(Read about an article I wrote sharing the same design philosophy when it comes to employing technology.)

As the agency commissioned to design and produce our National Day Parade (NDP) 2017’s collateral, we realised that the high profile ones like the NDP logo generally belong to the first category of design: it triggers self-reflection and makes you think a little deeper into the meaning of the theme. And rightly so, because that was the purpose of a logo. But the bulk of the items are functi0nal, unglamorous ones. Those are also the ones we are most satisfied and proud of.

One example is the NDP road closure advisory flyer (below). The information we needed to convey within a small space was extremely lengthy and multi-layered. We could have duplicated the information in linear, word format, but we didn’t. We opted to explore various ways to communicate the information in the simplest way possible. And we eventually ended up with this final piece, which some of you drivers may have picked up across petrol kiosks islandwide:

At first glance, it looks absolutely functional. Boring even. But to affected drivers, it could potentially save valuable time in trying to understand if the roads they intend to use are passable on a particular day. Or prevent that road rage from erupting. A a driver myself, I recall struggling to understand past traffic advisories posted on the web, where a multitude of road names and their opening/closing times were listed from top to bottom, accompanied by a heavily marked map. It was pretty frustrating. And I ended up avoiding that place altogether.

It was an experience we didn’t want fellow drivers to go through. And thus we invested serious time and effort in studying and understanding the multiple layers of information, before simplifying them into one simple infographic.

That’s why we are so satisfied with this. This is why we love doing what we do. because we have a chance to complement your life humbly, make it a little better. Even if that means the flyer ends up in the bin after you benefit from it. Forgotten for life.

Award-winning designs? We prefer invisible, life-winning work.

PS. If you like the unglamorous little cousin of a flyer as well, do let us know! It’ll make our day knowing the we made yours.


  1. Naveen Sarkar
    18 July, 2017

    Namaste from India.

    Loved it, loved the analogy!

    Thanks for lending this side of understanding and interpreting creatives, specially as per requirements of the brief. I am an ex-employee (copywriter) of PMG Asia in Delhi, had met you personally with Prashant at the offsite @ BKK.

    Thanks for the unglamorous little cousin of the flyer, and cheers to effective design, as compared to head-turner and eyeball-grabbers.

    • andy
      4 August, 2017

      Hi Naveen!

      Thanks for the comment, and good to “see” you once again! Great to hear another fellow creative professional sharing the same ideals and values. Let’s keep the effective design mantra going and the world will be a better place for it, I’m sure!


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