The Arty Blogness of Ansate Jones


Bad Design Made Better #1 – Candy Baron

For the past few years I’ve gotten into collecting advertising materials. Mostly business cards, but also flyers, menus, brochures, single page ads– anything that reflected some degree of design put into the process. The reason is simple when you think about it: I’m a graphic designer as well as a traditional artist, and seeing what other people are doing and learning from it is part of the game. You have to stay current.

Unfortunately most of the design I run across is… well, at best it’s just flawed in a few ways, but at its worst it makes my eyes bleed. I know there are a lot of sites that poke at bad design. In this ongoing blog series I intend to go a step beyond that, and actually attempt to FIX the design issues I find. It’s a good exercise for any designer, and in some instances can even serve as a portfolio builder. If you’re careful enough to say, like, twelve billion times over in your portfolio that you were not actually hired to do this and it is just a sample of what you’re capable of doing for your future clients.

A big part of this, though, is that I just have the urge to fix things, even if I’m not getting paid to do it. Ever have that?

My first attempt, then: Candy Baron’s business card.

Candy Baron is a cool candy shop in Monterey and I had the pleasure of visiting it a very long time ago. I’m not sure if they have changed their business cards by now (probably) but back in the day it looked like this:

Original Candy Baron business card, back and front

Uh… huh. Let’s ask ourselves the first, most important question: Does this even look like a candy store’s card? It’s a beautiful picture, but when I first picked up this card I have to tell you I was baffled. WTF did a cypress tree and a sunset have to do with candy? How were people going to remember this place based on the imagery of this card? Furthermore why waste double-sided card printing– which, yeah, is an extra cost– to simply put the SAME image on the other side, only this time in much less appealing black-and-white?

The image obviously has to go. That’s a no-brainer. Pretty as it is, it doesn’t tell us anything except, “Hey, we picked a gorgeous place to set up shop, go us!” I’m envying them, yes, but it’s not making me want candy.

To get some ideas of what Candy Baron is all about, first thing I did is visit their website. It looks way different from the business card– another problem. You want all your promotional material to match at least somewhat, or else it’s just going to confuse people trying to find you. I would never take a quick glance at this card and realize it was for the same business that has this as their website header:

Current Candy Baron website header image

Looking at this header… it’s good. And nothing like the business card. It has that old-time candyman feel to it that I think they were going for in the store– stripes, nice bright color, kind of carousel-like font. It really makes me think (or hope, anyway) that in the past few years they must’ve gotten a new design. Still, all I have to go on for a business card is this old thing, so I might as well make it match now. The point of this is to practice, after all.

First off, promo materials really look better with some sort of logo to tie everything together and differentiate the product. I was worried I was going to have to create a whole new logo for this place, which I really didn’t want to do, and it looks like I don’t have to because they have their little ‘baron’ character. So I popped him into Illustrator and traced him out. He’s a bit complicated for a small item like a business card (all that detail will be lost when you size down), and logos tend to be more streamlined these days anyway, so I took the liberty of simplifying the design just a tad, as you’ll see. I also added stylized parentheticals around him to suggest the shape of a barrel, since there was one in the header design. It just ends up encapsulating the logo and setting it apart a little better in my opinion.

Ok, logo gotten. Now on to the card layout itself. Let’s take a look at the text in the original again:

So now we have our second most important question: Can I take a quick glance at this card and get all the necessary info out quickly and efficiently? Again, not really. All the info is squeezed together with no real hierarchy of importance. That’s something you absolutely need for a business card, because nobody sits there and reads and studies something like that. They glance at it. So in order to design a good one you need to make sure that all your information is lumped together appropriately. It’s a principle designers call ‘proximity’ and you can read more about it in this article by Louis Lazaris.

In the original card design, the first four lines (and again in the last line) are the address and phone number (the phone number is even in there twice, for whatever reason). These would be one proximity lumping, and traditionally they’re put at the bottom of the card. The next three lines from the top are basically bullet points highlighting why their store is special. Then comes the name of the store itself, smack in the middle of the card. Finally, at the bottom, the strangely quotated “We Ship Everywhere!” (is this their slogan?) and the aforementioned repeat phone number. On the back, all it says is “Thanks for visiting / Hope to see you soon!” Again, a waste of a double-sided print in my opinion. If there was a coupon or one of those punch card things, that could be worth the cost.

The card font itself does not excite me, and again doesn’t tie into the fantastical font they use for their site header. Again, it’s like it’s for a totally different business. You really don’t want that.

Taking all this into consideration, I put this together:

So, what did I change? I went with a simple white and aqua color scheme, in keeping with the website header. The stripes are influenced from the awning in that header, though if I were truly printing this out I’d want to make sure the trim margins allowed for it. I stuck the baron-in-a-barrel logo over on the right almost as a curio portrait, in keeping with the old-timey feel. And I chose a font for the store name* that approximated the website header’s. If I had been hired to do this, of course, I would have put more effort into the font selection and perhaps even created my own. Since this is just a sample demonstration, I admittedly cut some corners. And kerned the hell out of this font to make it work.

I gave bullets to the bullet points, after some deliberation. Again, if this was a paying job I would have put more effort into the candy shape designs. As it is I just wanted to give an idea for the vast number of possibilities here. Note I changed the text slightly to give it a bit of personalization: “Your old-time favorites”.

The address and phone number took their traditional places near the bottom of the card. And the odd quote, We Ship Everywhere, becomes We Ship Anywhere and gets tucked neatly under the curio. Almost as if the Baron himself is saying it.

Since I couldn’t think of any other information to add, we don’t need a second side. And since we’re not printing full color photo resolution, that’s more money potentially saved for my imaginary clients. Won’t they be so happy!

What do you think? Did I save this card design or ruin it? Let me know in the comments below.

*As a side note, whether the store is called Candy Baron or The Candy Baron seems to depend on who you ask (or, more accurately, what piece of advertising you consult). Since the site itself uses the word ‘the’, I used that on the card. Again, consistency in these things is key. Even on the small stuff.

i think i may have gone a bit overboard

be nice to chloe

this is about where i am today. based on a conversation with my parents a few weeks ago…