Deciphering Design: Why the Industry’s Descriptive Dribble Must Be Put to Bed

Enough is enough. It’s time to make a stand. It might be slight against our own, but things can go on no longer.

It’s time to stop the waffle.

What is waffle?

Waffle is the fluffy, meaningless descriptions, explanations and interpretations that you often find hanging around design, brand and branding.

An image of a circle with a moving story on Yoke's Brand Waffle blog postThe babbling descriptive lines behind a new brand mark, the long-winded justification of a colour tone or the explanation on the use of a particular graphical element.

We’ve all seen it being done and, perhaps we’ve been guilty of it ourselves in the past, with a little bit of adjective overloading in the odd client presentations.

But there is a big difference between a bit of loft and the blatant nonsense narrative peddled by others.

Waffle in world of design is a unique beast and an altogether different animal from the standard marketing and advertising jargon you’ll find dripping from the lips of the ‘moving forward, solutions-based-approach’ posse.

No – design waffle, like the business itself, has to be deeper, cooler and more considered than the rest.

The most extreme cases of design waffle won’t actually have any descriptive qualities to them at all. Void of any reason, logic or rationale, they will sound more like the opium-induced superlatives of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Full of wistful metaphors, veiled rhetoric and laden with so many poetical devises, they often leave the client feeling like they have the albatross round their necks.

Why is it that those working in design feel the need to pepper their work with waffle? Good question.

Could it be our talent for visual communication has nulled our ability for verbal discourse?

Perhaps we are overcompensating in order to silence the oft-voiced accusation that design is merely ‘shapes on a page’?

Or are we simply following the herd and sticking to what we’ve been taught? The latest in a long line of bullshitters.

Who knows what the real reasons are, but the evidence is right in front of your face. You only have to check out the websites of design studios everyone from Brooklyn to Berlin to find some verbal waffle about ‘touching your inner essence through design’ or something similar.

A splash of colour with a meaningful story on Yoke's Brand Waffle blog postFear not, the ‘waffle infliction’, is not absolute and there are those working in design and branding who have mastered the art of straightforward articulate communication. Here is a nice example from London based TG Studio.

TG Studio is an interior architecture practice offering tailored bespoke concepts and architectural services to commercial and residential clients internationally.

We work closely with our clients to create intelligent and innovative designs pushing the potential of the brief and enabling the design to be individually tailored to each project.

Nice copy, well written and not a dangleberry of bullshit in sight.

Here’s another one from Melbourne’s own Canyon.

Canyon is a strategic and creative brand consultancy.

We help organisations create, build and sustain great brands.

Again. Nice. We know what they are, we know what they do and we like them already for not trying to yank your verbal plank.

Then there’s this sort of stuff… hold your noses!

We live & breathe a culture of dreams, process & creativity. Our approach to each project is an opportunity to discover, learn, evolve, simplify, interpret, innovate and create.

We believe ecology in design today, rests on the role of the designer as cultural architect, creating products with clear purpose, intelligent material appropriateness & function that arrest you with their beauty & promote a movement ‘against throwawayism’. You are emotionally attached enough not to discard it. When you no longer need it, give it to someone whom you know admires it or to charity for those who need it more now, than you.

We wont reveal which studio this is, or what planet they’re from, as it’s a bit unfair and they are far from being the only guilty party.

An image of a line full of meaning on Yoke's Brand Waffle blog post

It’s the same when it comes to brands. Here’s an extract from a press release to launch the new brand mark for US based media company Univision.

Univision logo


“The new ‘heart’ logo joins the quadrants that were previously separated, representing unity, collaboration and the merging of cultures in the U.S., not to mention Univision’s integration across its platforms. It is also three-dimensional, representing the magnitude of the Univision brand and the U.S. Latino community, as well as the 360-degree approach we embrace as a company. The vibrant colour palette and use of light in the design reflect the vivacity of the community we represent and its contributions to the U.S. landscape.

Too… much… meaning…!

As has been said before, there is nothing wrong with giving descriptions and relevance to a design, having a story behind a new brand or pulling inspiration from here, there or anywhere.

All good design should have some form of concept or idea behind it. Lets just try keep the bullshit factor to a minimum for all our sakes.

Leave a Reply