When bad design goes good

Are there companies who need poor aesthetics?

It has been my experience in looking for a product/service, I am looking for either quality or low cost. Fortunately there are companies who cater to both of these approaches.  Some want to give their customers quality while others want to give their customer the cheapest product possible. Not that they’re out looking to rip people off, but because there will always be an audience. I wonder if it’s just as important for a company to communicate “cheap” as much as it is for another to communicate “quality”.

There’s a grocery chain out here across the west who recently revamped their image (including a cleaned up logo). Safeway. They’ve really made the effort to communicate that they sell quality foods. In the year and half since, it doesn’t seem like their competitor, King Sooper has made any effort to improve their image.

It crossed my mind a while back, if King Sooper has “let” Safeway have the quality shopper and are focusing their attention on the penny-pincher. I think they are, and I think they have the right formula. King Soopers materials look like they were designed by the owner’s nephew. I wonder if King Sooper enhanced their design to be on par with Safeway, if they might loose the miser?

As a designer, what do you do when you get a client who caters to the bargain-hunter? Do you need to hold back on your sweet design skills and make sure the designs you produce look like they were designed by an amateur? Eh. I think it works for King Sooper.

So, as much as it pains me to say it, I think there’s a time and a place for … bad design.

Thanks, David Airey, for “forcing” me to begin blogging. 🙂

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2 comments on “When bad design goes good
  1. David Airey says:

    I never meant to ‘force’ you, Dave, but it’s great to see you take up the reigns. 😉

    Oh, and thanks for the kind blogroll mention.

  2. Mike says:

    You raise some very good points Dave.

    I would suggest that good design and a particular aesthetic are not inseperable.

    On the flip side, an “ugly” visual identity and “bad design” are not mutually exclusive. You can have one without the other.

    I think I’m agreeing with you when I say that good design sometimes means using a “cheaper” aesthetic. Does that make sense?

    If the company tells you “we want to appeal to the bargain shopper by providing a bargain bin experience”, or “we want to look inexpensive”, then it’s up to you as their designer to provide that experience.

    IMO, King Sooper’s site could work better for them if they would have another look at a few of their design elements, like typography, layout, imagery, interaction, information architecture, etc…, and still maintain the “cheaper” aesthetic.

    In fact, I think they could feel even cheaper, while still doing better design.

    Any other examples of companies that nail the “cheap aesthetic”? I’m sure there are some great websites (continuing to use websites as an example, since we’re on the web here), that provide excellent usability, great persuasion architecture, exhibit high conversion rates, etc…, while looking cheap.

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