Lovely vs Functional Displays

November 16th, 2009

Just a quick word of warning to those of you about to sign that contract with your favorite vendor for a lovely display . . . is that display also functional?  Will it become another pretty thing that you outgrow or find disappointing in its ability to serve over time?

Lovely vs FunctionalHere an architect had “a great idea”:  a suspended, visually-alluring, curved graphics to bring interest to his otherwise nondescript, though well-lighted lobby. Issues that would serve the fund-raising organization took a distant “backseat” to his lovely design. Issues such as legibility, palpable gift hierarchy, ease of change, and cost for additions were not considered. Of these, the problem of legibility is most easily seen in this photo, yet the other issues exist for the client.

There’s an old saying I am reminded of that, when I use it here, sounds self-serving so I’ll admit it is . . . a little.  The phrase is “pay me now, pay me later”.

Product manufacturer and interior designer/architect for this display were “paid now” to decide what was best for the display of donor listings.  Yet, in reality, there is nothing about this display that was executed in behalf of the fund-raising organization. Why, the names aren’t even READABLE! Sadly, the organization will have to “pay later” with even more donated dollars if its need to engage the viewer is ever to be met.

Though the fundraiser was probably shown mock-ups of the product to be installed, s/he  could not possibly have been expected to understand the environmental and long-term impact of reflectivity on this “lovely display”. The expectation that the experts hired would think beyond the “look” of the display is not unreasonable. What has happened here is that designers were caught up in their craft of designing, rather than in performing an appropriate service for their client. Sadly, that happens a lot. Witness the American auto industry for another example.

In short, beware the purchase of any donor plaque or display based on reasons other than how it will provide the best return to the fundraiser on the investment. This one is NOT such a display. And if you look again, you’ll no longer think it to be so “lovely”.

Share similar missteps with all of us. Send us your image and any comments you’d like to make about it. We’ll protect the identity of those who have erred, for sure, so that we can all learn from the experiences of others.

Written by Robin E. Williams

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