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One $400 project can’t fix a culture of malaise

A few weeks ago we started to design a pop-up banner. The kind you might find standing behind a booth at a convention. They have a base and they pull-up like a blind about 6 or 7 feet into the air.

They’re almost always blue. They also usually feature stock photos of people with eerily-white teeth. They’re almost always 80% logo.

This banner was for a local service club. One that I’m very familiar with as a member of the Indianapolis Rotary Club. I mention this because their club has the same problem as every other club:

  1. Fantasizing amazing things that come from millennials becoming involved
  2. A wish to be seen as modern and fresh
  3. A desire to stick a buffet of random elements into one rectangle, see lots of options, and keeping the budget low

So we made a couple of designs, sent them an idea, and waited.

Both were a modern twist on the club’s existing fabric banners. Except these were a much brighter blue. They featured a clean block font. I’d call them “aggressively attention-grabbing”. Because remember, these are meant to stand up against one or two people, a table, and loads of other activity buzzing around. They need to be aggressively attention-grabbing.

The feedback came. One person thought something was off-center. Another request was just “different font”. The third was to keep it cheap. The trifecta of committee-driven work.

Imagine for a moment you had a painter in your house and he painted the kitchen. When you walk in you said, “Different color” and walked out. What do you expect to happen to your wall now?

Plus, when you work with someone and give unhelpful advice like, “Different font”, you can forget about saving money.

So to keep the budget low we went formulaic. There’s the rub: I compromised my ideals for the sake of budget. I’m tired of doing that. IT made everything worse.

I made the blue duller, made the font Arial, and off-centered the text someone was confused about. The motto of this project became, “Guaranteed to offend no one.”

As much as it pained me to compromise for the sake of shuffling this out the door, the part that breaks my heart is the loss of purpose.

The club wants to be younger and brighter. It wants to be seen differently. It wants to be noticed. The group strives for impact.

Can a banner do all those things? No. But it can help.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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