2011
06.20

Most of you have probably heard the term “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. If not, then the basic idea behind it is that we can only apply ‘what we know’ to any given situation, though what we know (or think we know in some cases) may not be enough to make a responsible decision.

In the marketing and communications industries we often find situations where both clients and agency professionals alike react based on minimal insight, often diluting the overall success of the task at hand. To be fair, ‘minimal insight’ may be the result of thinking we know, rather than actually knowing, which is an easy hole to fall into.

Some examples:

Typography:

Client/or Agency Account Manager: “Reversed copy is hard to read, why would you use reverse copy on this job, aren’t you people supposed to know this stuff?”

Designer/Agency Art Director: “Yes, technically it IS harder to read, that is why it has to be used responsibly and with experience based on overall communication goals. Designers and communications experts spend years crafting the when and how to apply reversed type. It will be fine.”

Risk: The ‘reverse type is harder to read’ rule flagged could have easily diluted the dynamics of the overall design or communication objective of the Designer/Art Director. In this case the Designer/ArtD at least had the opportunity to discuss and reassure the Client/AccountM, rather then simply being told not to reverse the type.

Headline Size and Position:

Client/or Agency Account Manager: “We need to make sure the headline is read, why isn’t it at the top of the Ad and Bigger?, I would do this (ad) myself if I had the software!”

Designer/Agency Art Director: “Traditionally a ‘headline’ is the text at the top of a newspaper article, attracting you to and  giving you some insight into the story below it. An Ad is very different to a news article. An Ad should create a unique ‘space’ so that communication and engagement can happen. This ‘space’ can be picture led, headline led or brand/logo led, but there is NO golden rule. An Ad must be noticed before it can be read, and it must be noticed with brand equity and ethos intact. In this design, the picture is the most important element of attraction, and the headline works even stronger sitting down the bottom because of this. It will work better this way.”

Risk: Same as Typography example. Crisis of ‘blandness’ diverted.

There are many more examples of when A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing that happen in our everyday lives. The next time you need the help of a professional be it for Plumbing, Gardening or  Advertising, assume they are acting in your best interest.

Always ask ‘why?’ If you need to understand, but in my experience, professionals will generally explain this anyway as THEY need you to understand. If not, you should find someone that will, but just make sure you aren’t limiting the success of the overall job with a little knowledge being applied as a rule!

  1. I’ve been wondering about the similar factor myself lately. Delighted to see an individual on the same wavelength! Nice article.

  2. I came across to your post and found it very useful for me. Thanks and good luck!)

  3. Keep up the good fight and keep trying to help the industry (and those even peripherally associated with it) honest!