Who needs grammar?

April 5, 2017

In most situations, designers are not also required to write content.  So there would be no expectation for the designer to know how to spell or add punctuation.  Designers aren’t proofreaders.  If the text is aesthetically pleasing (font, color, spacing, placement) then the designer did his/her job.

Nevertheless, I would argue that good design incorporates everything that a human crafted.  That the accuracy of the content reflects on the overall design.  A good designer exhibits attention to detail.  A good designer either has basic grammar skills, or recognize that they need to hire or befriend a person who does.

Truck door with bad grammarThe text on this truck door is obviously not the work of a professional designer. In fact, it’s unlikely that the person had any other design-related roles in the company. It was probably applied to the door by somebody related to the owner of the truck.

But still, it is an apt illustration, even if hyperbolic, of the sort of situations that designers can find themselves in. It wouldn’t be unusual for a designer to be instructed to create a headline that reads “Your Invited” or “Thank’s for Coming.” If the designer is unable to recognize the error in that text, they open themselves up to ridicule, which would invalidate any success they may have earned with the rest of their design.

If you’re wondering what the problem is with the truck door graphic, it’s the apostrophe at the end of “Farms.”  Apostrophes serve two purposes, to create a contraction (don’t, can’t) or to denote possession (Jim’s, the Johnsons’).  The apostrophe in the photo suggests that California Farms owns something, without indicating what that something is.  California Farms’ ______.  Is it referring to the truck itself?

This sign raised my ire in particular because the misuse of quotation marks and apostrophes is a pet peeve of mine.  It adds insult to injury when our president tweets out some nonsense with a word or phrase in quotes, even though he’s not quoting anything.  And in this case, the errant apostrophe is not only wrong, but it was entirely unnecessary to add.  That a person applied each character individually makes it even more absurd that continued to add the additional, unnecessary apostrophe.  I imagine him looking over his available letter decals, trying to find the row of punctuation marks.

Wait, I’m almost done.  Just need to find something to ruin this with…