graphic design is a wonderful tool. it gives form and nuance to ideas in a way that words alone cannot. think of milton glaser’s iconic “i love ny.” when typed, it carries the idea well enough. we read it and it communicates love for ny on a basic level. now call to mind the graphically enhanced version. the large sturdy black typeface, the bright red heart and the stacking of the elements take the message and imbue it with life, with vibrance. it communicates the idea of love for ny much more emphatically than just a typed phrase. or, imagine nike’s “just do it” typed in big, bold, all caps, oblique and bright yellow characters. the sense of doing it is heightened by the form. graphic design is an amazing tool for communicating more clearly and convincingly the essence of an idea or thing.

it’s also a fantastic tool for obfuscating the essence of an idea or thing, a fantastic tool of deception, as most of the advertising world has discovered. indeed the new york lottery and the designers and agencies that work for them have done a superb job of using graphic design to communicate a message that is exactly the opposite of what their little games produce. “cash for life?” “watch green fall out of the blue?” hardly.

just because it’s good-looking design doesn’t mean it’s good design. the responsibility is ours to use design to communicate the true nature of a thing rather than to obfuscate it.


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great idea for a site! fully dedicated to ligatures. if you don’t know about ligatures, visit this tumblr and educate yo’self.

the type in the following new york lottery ads is beautiful. the typeface itself is especially well crafted, and notice the attention to detail found in the custom ligatures and flourishes.



but it is the beauty of the type design that makes that fact that it’s being used to tell an outright lie that much more disappointing. “watch green appear out of the blue” and “play now so future you can live it up later” are so far from the truth about the actual results of what purchasing a lotto ticket will afford the purchaser that it’s laughable.

or rather would be laughable if it weren’t so deceptive and manipulative. indeed, the odds of the purchaser “winning” the smallest prize, $2, which is the cost of the ticket, are 1:13. hardly “cash for life.” you’d be better off taking $10 and buying a six pack so that future you can live it up this evening.

do i have it all wrong? is there something i’m missing? i ask our representatives in the new york state government, is there a good explanation for what looks to me to be the outright deception of those encountering the ads?

and i ask ddb, the agency that created this cash for life ad campaign, is there any other way to interpret these taglines? i’m having a hard time seeing them as anything but flat out untrue.

i think we can do better than this, designers. i think we can use our abilities to create and promote ideas, services, and even products that will improve lives, build community and increase value in society, and yes, make a respectable living doing it. this cash for life seems to me to be making a promise that i will mostly never fulfill.