The best and worst designs of 2005

We all see thousands of designs daily, but some stand out in our minds. Some do so because they have been well executed, and others because they are – er – you know…

Here are my nominees for the best and worst of the year.

The worst:
Maclean’s magazine redesign
In November 2005, Maclean’s went through a makeover. I was disappointed by what I saw: crowded pages with tiny margins and gutters (space between columns), hard to read text with reduced line height and very little white space in general. Photos had taken a back seat to the text. While more content can be a good thing, it ended up presenting the reader with what appears to be a solid wall of text without much of a window or foothold. The new typefaces are hard to read, especially the chunky type used for lead-in paragraphs and captions. Good design should give the eye something to latch onto and then encourage the reader to take a journey across and around the page. They appear to have already made some changes to that original November redesign as they struggle to regain balance – and readers.

The best:
Fido Communications cell phone user guide
Maybe I’m just a sucker for cute dog pictures, but I actually wanted to read this manual all the way through. It is well laid out with lots of white space to let the eye rest. Colours are consistent with the company’s identity, but not overpowering. Each section has a theme colour, improving navigability. The oversized images do not overwhelm the layout. Their predictable placement on each page and lack of backgrounds actually point the reader to the information. The book uses only one sans serif font with different weights for headings, subheadings and body text. Extra line height makes it even easier to read. The overall effect is light and friendly – a comfortable place to be. It’s rewarding to see a brand’s identity consistently delivered in something as mundane as a user manual. Bravo!

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