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The rise of the design eye and the ability to articulate what one likes and dislikes has ascended. This common appreciation for aesthetics and design between design-laymans and designers has been wonderful — it’s much like when I travel to france and try to say “I want a comfy chair” in their dialect — they love me! The same can be said for people trying to talk my language of design.

This rise comes from the DIY network shows, the catwalk fashion reality shows and even the cooking shows — people want to be able to talk the language of ‘visual’. I love it – I do, but like those who have to hear my french, I desire complete fluency… which of course is naïve of moi.

One of those incomplete understandings of the design language is the use of the word “busy.” It may be one of the hardest terms to throw out because “busy” usually is used in a negative expression “yo, that website is busy.” It seems the term “busy” has been hi-jacked and no longer can be a positive critique… “yo, that website be busy.”  We must add an adjective to it — “yo, that website is wonderfully busy.”

To be clear, the current prominent-popular-soon-to-be-tired design style is simplistic and reserved – simple and not busy. So we hear those words buzz around our heads throughout the design world – from interiors to cars to websites. Its not that I think the terms are not proper to use but that they are used improperly.

Busy is Good

There are a lot of memorable and successful designs that are ‘busy’ — I suggest that they were intentionally made complex to convey an emotion or tone like the work of Paula Scher, the new(ish) logo for the School of Visual Arts, and this website for Sheffa I found today that I’m digging on.

I am not saying one expression style is better, I’m just saying — you would not serve a simple hot dog to your wife on your 50th anniversary nor would you serve a “busy” looking plate of Cornish hen, wild rice and acorn squash to your friend waiting for a haircut at the barbershop.

There is context to why some situations require a ‘simple’ approach while others need a ‘busy’ solution and as designers we should evaluate the organization and the audience to determine when to glaze an hen or apply a line of mustard to the hotdog.

To think about this more, I invite you review our portfolio to see our busy and simple solutions.

  • To view the site we created for Anacostia Gracious Arts Program in its appropriately busy form see it live by clicking here.
  • To view print work we created for Imagine Schools in its scholastically busy form click here.
Sketch of a beautifully busy city
Michael Schafer
Michael has spent the past 25 years applying his experience and superpowers to further the missions of social-good organizations, and has no plans to stop.