Observations on Design and Illustration

Observations on Design and Illustration

Design Pet Peeve #1: Why is it that so many consumer products are over-packaged, often using the most environmentally toxic materials known to exist, in forms that require scissors or a knife to open?  Electronics and computer components are the worst, but even products such as humus and organic lettuce sometimes offend.  I’m not completely naïve.  I understand that “freshness” and theft-prevention are design considerations driving much of this packaging. But that brings up a much larger issue.


Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?  Look it up.  It is a huge area in the north-central Pacific Ocean estimated to be anywhere from the size of Texas to the size of the continental US.  (There is a similar patch in the North Atlantic).  In this vast area, suspended plastic particles outnumber plankton (the foundation of the food chain) by anywhere from 6:1 to 1000:1, depending on when and where the samples are taken.  Eighty percent of the debris in this muck soup originates from land-based uses, and the molecular components in the plastics are entering the food chain.  When asked how we clean this up, the expert consensus seems to be that we have to change our species-wide manufacturing, consuming, discarding, and recycling habits: a tall order that also speaks directly to my irritation with packaging.  But I would add one more: our lack of trust and honesty.  If we could somehow reverse our proclivities toward sterile customized containers, and getting something for nothing, we wouldn’t need all that packaging, secure or not.

Anyone interested in changing human behavior?

Could design and illustration help with that?

Over the months I will be exploring the past, processes, purposes, people, and products involved in two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, and all types of illustration.  I will also continue to include my top design “pet peeves,” as examples of fuzzy thinking that could be reversed, plus comments from readers.  I will attempt to post one article every month.  Stay tuned.

For next time: Design definition and a little history

Comments, anyone? To find out about my background and experience or send comments, go to www.mapsandwayfinding.com.

Dennis O’Brien