Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

Well, it looked OK on screen…

Posted in: Design, Ethics, Miscellany

Legibility is perhaps the most basic aspect of design – making the message readable. Unless of course, you’re a deconstructivist and making the message hard to read is actually part of the post-modern message you wish to get across. Or you’re trying to test your readers in some other way.


When I saw this advert from MI6 and the SIS (Secret Intelligence Services) in the ‘Society’ supplement of The Guardian, I thought it might be part of the recruitment process – being able to understand the message might be a test in itself and a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. But on a simple read through it is clear that this isn’t the case. No this is just a fine example of bad design, no proofing and well, ‘It looked OK on screen, so I assumed it would print out OK’ lazyness. Depending on how good your eyes are you may be able to read the black text over the dark image: ‘Where else could you analyse a tribal leader’s story, pick through an envo…’

I’m sure MI6 and SIS paid a lot for this ad and aren’t adverts supposed to be at least readable by the people they target – the audience? I’m going to keep a Flickr group of illegibility samples as it seems there are plenty of examples to choose from. You can see a larger version of this ad and see it doesn’t get any easier to read close up.