I do cringe when I hear it still. Most designers do. “Make it pop!”. Shall I make it pop like a balloon? How about bubblegum?
The thing is, I have changed my mind. It might be some of the best feedback you can get.
What? Do I now lose my designer ID card? Blasphemy?
I like its simplicity. It cuts to the core of the issue — shit isn’t popping.
The design lacks some wow.
It’s not stirring my soul.
The communication is weak.
I kind of like it but I don’t love it.
Why should I hate this feedback? Is it because you just poked my fragile design ego with a stick? Now I question my existence. Why am I even a designer?
From a CD doe?
The feedback is epic when it comes from a Creative director, though. From non-designers, it is a meme-worthy requirement.
But, from a creative director? Uggh, c’mon.
A CD is supposed to be able to go into deep intellectual paradigms of why the design is falling short or the blue needs to be turned into a teal blue because of Pinterest. Guess what, when my CD said ‘Make it pop,’ after I rolled my eyes and passed out for five minutes, I knew EXACTLY what they were talking about.
Why did it resort to making elements pop? Why have you torn my soul inside out and said it lacks the most recent Pantone Color Of The Year?
Because I failed at my job. I need to start owning it.
Start the healing process
Que the tension, the eye rolls, the memes.
I know I am not designing something worthy of stirring a soul. I know I am not communicating things with impact, wonderment – with the precision of a scalpel. I now hate that you told me to make it pop. Now my shortcomings are exposed to me in the form of misaligned color blocks. I need a triple shot espresso at my local roastery. Coffee is supposed to give me a temporary MFA in graphic communications. That will solve things. I am not crying, you are crying.
Honestly, that’s why ‘Make it pop’ is the best.
With a simple, cringe-worthy phrase, you are exposing the truth. Or a form of the truth at least. As I am writing this article, a flood of excuses is popping up in my head. The provided copy was a novel. The colors are boring. The font is lame. The imagery is too stock. But this, but that. Insert any excuse you can think of here. Some of it is valid.
But, the harsh truth remains.
You aren’t making that lame image POP. I feel nothing! I don’t want to buy this cat head! Make it POP!
What would Michael Bierut do?
I can imagine some of my design heroes sitting and skulking at their desk – this damn Jazz foundation gave me so much copy. Uggh!
No, I don’t!
I ACTUALLY imagine my heroes sitting down and sketching new and exciting ways to tackle complex layouts. I imagine them getting to fucking WORK. I imagine them saying “Oh, you want to give me 28 paragraphs to fit in a 1inch area? Fine, watch me design.” I imagine them adopting the ‘bring it on, let’s figure this out’ mentality. I imagine that they have tough conversations with their clients. I imagine they get content reduced, colors changed. I imagine they boss things up because they want people to FEEL the message. I imagine they feel life is too short, and big, bold text from a reworked headline that makes you feel something is what they will present. And they aren’t SCARED to get shit done.
I can also imagine my design heroes being scared, whiny, and stressed out. I can even believe they are humans like you and me, that happen to make very drastically different decisions from other designers about how they do their work. There is a reason they are ‘better.’
What am I really saying here?
I need to get to work to continually strive to make soul-stirring work no MATTER the situation. I need to stop the eye rolls, the meme culture. That attitude won’t accomplish anything useful. I need to make design a life-giving experience — no big deal. I’ll get an IV of coffee set up.
Do you want to make things pop with me? The next time you get the feedback and after you get done swallowing your spit-up, try it out with me. Let’s tweak our attitude a little and do some incredible work! Or that is the plan at least.
Oh no! I have to cut this post off, I just got an email that I need to ‘make the logo bigger’ and need to jump out a window and scream and then order a quadruple shot of espresso. Wish me luck. Bye!
Disclaimer: I don’t know my design heroes personally, nor do I know how they do their work. I mean, they could be laughing at clients and hand them a balloon and say ‘You make it pop!’. Life can be funny that way.