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I work for a medium-sized in-house design department for a giant technology company. A woman came to me to ask me to make placecards (fun!) for a company dinner party with the names of guests on them, so people would know where to sit. These cards were to be slightly bigger than a business card, and would probably be viewed from a distance of 10 - 20 feet, by tipsy guests milling around holding glasses, yakking, etc. The client's one specific request: she wanted a photoshop montage on it.
On a place card.
It was at that moment that I knew something is being put in our public water supply to make people crave these cliched, dated eyesores -- I'm not sure what else would explain it. Virtually every day I interact with a client who has almost no design awareness whatsoever, no preferences of colors, typefaces, illustration styles... EXCEPT they know they want a photoshop montage. (Not that they call it that.)
It's gotten so extreme that many clients will balk at any clean, hard-edged shape whatsoever. Every line of type must have a blurred drop shadow, a beveled edge and an outer glow -- every box or circle must have hazy edges that fade into whatever is behind it. Every paragraph must have a big photograph "ghosted" behind it (good luck reading that, sister!)
In my daily life I see them everywhere now: muddy magazine ads, murky point-of-purchase displays -- institutional brochures are so likely to have photoshop collages that it's almost like the default style. The worst of the lot is so busy and confusing that you can't make out any actual images: "what's going on in there?" My coworker calls it "Photoshop Stew."
Near my house is a Blockbuster Video store that contains a 10-foot high point-of-purchase display created to get people to buy Direct TV, or something like that. This thing is the size of large refrigerator, and every surface is covered with a grayish-blue photoshop montage of... stuff you would see on tv, I guess. Looking at it is like sifting through the wreckage of a plane crash. "Is that a football player's arm? Is this part of a car? Is that a chicken?
Do people like them because they look "complex?" Because it's something they couldn't do themselves in Microsoft Word? The clients I'm referring to are all middle-aged and pretty conservative, so it's not like they're pining for the "grunge" look of the early nineties.
In Paula Scher's new book, "Make It Bigger," she speculates that the reasons clients love these abominations is because they're vague and non-committal -- ironically the same reasons I hate them. But the montages have the function of reducing responsibility / potential culpability of the client. How can your boss or coworkers criticize the content / subject matter of an image if you can't tell what it is?
The strange thing is that before coming to this job I experienced very little of this madness. Are other people experiencing things like this? Any suggestions about how to handle it -- counseling, heavy drinking, another career?
Thanks for reading my long rant. I'm off to make hard-edged vector art in Illustrator. (Mmmm, clean, so clean.)