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Design has a place in more than museums, art galleries

While doing research for this week’s front-cover story, the design of the Appropriations Committee’s budget recommendations document (top left) told a different story than the words contained inside.

The document referenced the $6.7 million appropriation recommended for CSC’s Armstrong Gymnasium. Accompanying materials published by the committee contained testimony about the negative impression that Armstrong’s condition had on current and prospective students. Yet, for being concerned with appearances, the Appropriations Committee isn’t setting the standard with its own visual image.

The original Appropriations Committee’s cover for its 2011-13 Budget Recommendations.

The original Appropriations Committee’s cover for its 2011-13 Budget Recommendations.

In the example at left, the word “Nebraska” is surprisingly not found anywhere on the cover, the kitsch dollar symbol image is pixelated, and the type is all one style and face. The design lacks visual hierarchy, variation, and aesthetic appeal.

Now more than ever, popular culture dictates that the visual appeal is as important as the content itself, and as media theoretician and scholar Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”

In The Eagle’s20-minute redesign of the cover, visual subordination is incorporated in the design, an official seal is substituted for the crude symbol, and a simple background augments the balanced design elements.

The Eagle’s revised cover.

The Eagle’s revised cover.

What can we learn from the Legislature in this instance? People will judge others not only on the substance of their messages, but on the appearance and arrangement of the messages themselves. The next time you are tempted to try to turn in a hand-written homework assignment or communicate via a hastily-scrawled note, consider what message you are sending.

Design most definitely has a place outside museums.

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