Can Bad Design be Good Design?

First off, let's look at the basis for this article.

Three Truths about Design
  1. Design has a purpose
  2. The only qualification for a good design is to meet that purpose
  3. Everything else is superfluous
What does this mean?

If a design meets its purpose, it can assault your eyes all day long and still be good design.

Why do I bring this up?

I was watching TV the other day when one of the Viagra commercials came on. I have always though they were ridiculous. I have always thought they were poorly done. In fact, I feel the same way about most medical commercials. Dr. ImAPaidActor hasn't convinced me to take my vitamins, let alone make an appointment to find out if mystery medicine #5 is "right for me."

So that means the commercials are poorly designed, right? Right.

Wrong. The truth is that Viagra doesn't think of me AT ALL when they create a commercial. They don't care about me. I am not their target customer. They don't care what I think of that stuffy doctor, or the middle-aged parents having a dance party in their kitchen (although, to be fair, I hope that I am having kitchen dance parties in thirty years).

So at this point, I have to concede something - they know their target audience much better than I do. Apparently. people who are pro Viagra are al
so pro awkward dancing. I shouldn't simplify it so much, but the point is still there.

What's the Point?

Looking at design from this perspective, don't we have to reconsider for a moment exactly what we define "good design" and "bad design" to be? Most of the design-savvy people I know are in their 20s and 30s. So while the right grunge font may catch my eye, it might make my grandparents change the channel. Think about the following questions:
  • Is this website that uses Comic Sans targetting 5th graders?
  • Is this midi background music targeting elementary music teachers?
  • Is this design that is based on a neon color palette targeting Vegas strippers?
You may be saying, " . . . but wait, WAIT! Those things are still bad design!" And the truth is, yes, I die just a tad every time I see something of that sort. But I can also tell you that my mother loves midi music sites, and my 5th grade self (rocking sweat pants and pogs) thought that Comic Sans was the coolest font ever.

To me, it is bad design. But if the design serves its purpose, doesn't that qualify it for good design? Can't bad design be good design?

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