The Creative Direction Sharktank of Web 2.0

I StumbleUpon’d a site the other day that featured a post presenting a smart, graceful idea to improve exit door design.  I hadn’t considered exit door design in need of improvement, but designer Chen Guan-Yuan’s did and his proposal appeared both logical and practical.  Essentially, Chen believes the traditional horizontal push bar presents a problem for children or anyone on their knees due to smoke so he placed his vertically on the lower two-thirds of the door. Check the link–his four frame presentation explains the idea with unfussy simplicity.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingThis seemingly innocuous design post garnered fifty-four comments, all of which teach one major thing: designers don’t play well with others.

Perhaps its due to the solitary nature of the craft, perhaps its a product of the outsized confidence required by the job description but whatever, it rarely makes for constructive criticism.  A fellow named Conrad Martin dropped the glove right at Comment 1, snarkily dismissing the underlying impetus for the innovation (“…terribly noble and inclusive”) and then attacking the flaws he sees in moving the bar vertically.  He argues worthwhile points but his insufferable superiority makes you want to stab him with a Koh-I-Noor pen.

Inevitably, that’s what Chen’s friends quickly did, passionately defending the designer with sentenced inflected with a distinct English-as-a-second-language tonality.

But despite their often offensive tone, the wide range of comments bring an incredible motherlode of ideas and issues to the initial design which can strengthen and improve Chen’s design.  The challenge of integrating these ideas though springs from the same issue Jon Stewart decried at his rally in Washington, DC last weekend: “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

In the sharktank of anonymous public opinion, that water’s always warm and ideas get treated with brutish disregard for manners.  And yet if you’re able to resist the temptation to wallow in the mudslinging, you can profit of these free ideas no matter how venomously expressed.

Yet another reason creatives need to maintain a thick skin.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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