Each time I go to work, I’m bombarded with advertisements along my subway commute: posters and marquees about technical colleges, campaigns for new phone apps and websites, and the occasional breast enlargement ad.
I can’t help but notice the design and art direction of each ad. More often than not, the typography isn’t as tight as it should be: the kerning between letters are inconsistent, especially around the more common letters with space issues like “S”, “O”, and the combination of “A” and “Y”. This isn’t so much of a typographical problem for the corporate ads who can pay for quality designers, but rather everyone else. It just seems there isn’t as much careful attention to detail to the type. In my head, these type of companies just hired a recent liberal arts graduate to design their ads… or worst yet, an intern with an inattentive art director.
Now don’t get me started on stock photos and photos in general. It seems that every local ad just goes to iStock and download whatever image best suits them, and it shows: happy looking students who appear too beautiful to go to that school, travel photos that look too goddamed generic, and way too miserable-looking drug abusers on substance abuse ads. I’ve learned from design school and my various jobs that stock photography and footage is the troublesome, double-edged sword in the creative world: sometimes it’s a necessary evil when a designer runs out of options, but it’s best to use your own images or hire a professional photographer to take the photos you want.
Lastly, I notice the messaging and copy: more often than not, these ads are trying to be clever and edgy but most of them can’t seem to find the right humor. In the end, it’s a clusterfuck of incomprehensible satire. On the other hand, sometimes there’s too much copy on ad, and as a subway rider, you usually don’t have the goddamn time to read a fucking paragraph. My advice is to keep the message short, simple, and absolutely concise. Riding on the train now, I’m looking at three ads whose headlines end with questions (“is this a job or purpose?” and “Have you found the you in you?”). Not only are these pretty dumb rhetorical questions, but they’re followed by a massive amount of tiny-sized text.
Well that’s my rant on design of commuter ads. Get your shit together, New York.