Design emergency in seat 13B

On a recent flight to Seattle, my seatmate was creating one of those horrific PowerPoint presentations. You know what I am talking about.  The one where he thought he would use every trick because, well, he could.  It was a 7 am flight, and my fourth cup of coffee (even with the extra shot) hadn’t kicked in…so I refrained from suggesting that he might not want to use six type fonts and a rainbow gradient on one page. But I thought about it.

I went back to my magazine and wondered what happened to all of the great editorial illustrations that used to be part of the in-flight publications. And as I scooped up an emergency card for my daughter Kate’s collection, I realized how alike they all were.

DSC00477

The Wall of Doom (partial view), or How to Decorate with Airline Emergency Cards, Collegiate Style.

Then the flight attendant asked for any medical personnel to identify themselves, because they had a passenger emergency. The call lights went on and the doctors and nurses scurried to attend to the passenger. I don’t think it was a very serious emergency, but it made me wonder why we never hear this:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, if there are any graphic designers on board, would you please identify yourselves? We have a PowerPoint presentation going into cardiac arrest in seat 13B, an uninspired magazine in need of creative resuscitation, and  airline emergency cards that are lacking in motivation, clarity and originality.”

We could have design triage, and save presentations, reputations and even lives.  If this happened after an AIGA conference  (the graphic designers would all be self-identified with their black t-shirts, retro-cool glasses and Moleskines), we could probably take care the of flight attendant uniforms, the snack packs, the barf bags (though I did see one that said “this seat occupied” which I thought was a clever dual-use combo), the boarding passes, and the outside of the plane on one trip home. There would be DIUs (Design Intervention Units) providing in-transit creative mediation across the country. Imagine what we could all do within a four-hour flight?

If only they would ask.

And those six-font PowerPoints? They wouldn’t stand a chance.

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1 Response to “Design emergency in seat 13B”


  1. 1 Scott June 1, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    hmm, design emergency, or client communications emergency? I have been paid many times to do great work, and after a presentation or two, find the client on my shoulder saying, “. . . make it like that template I saw in PowerPoint, etc. . . . ”

    Sadly, I got paid. Somewhere, there’s a level where, as a designer, you can walk away. I think you have to be able to say to the client something like, “no, Virginia, your input is not correct. You will use my submitted Solution A or Solution B. If not, don’t call back.” If you can’t say that, you can be as persuasive as your relationship will allow, and you can still find that presence on your shoulder.


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