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Bad design
made public

Panels and posters in schools

Most of Chinese public schools, or at least those based in Beijing, not only display badly-designed panels of their school’s activities, but they all reproduce the same style without questioning its randomness. These school information panels usually show a collection of photos with frames in shape of circles, rhombus or curved rectangles, sometimes with colourful outlines, sometimes with a background shadow, without realising that these choices overcrowd the layout and that they should be avoided to approach a nearly correct visual communication. The negative space is clearly not respected, images and texts are not aligned, and even the quality of some photographs is questionable as they do not highlight important actions in the best ways possible. Some of these panels are not replaced in years, not to say decades. This emphasises the amplitude of the problem which, after evidencing the poor quality of the layout, gets worsen for being taken as a model to be reproduced nation-wide.

We could also mention that the interior design of those schools is similar among them, with large corridors poorly decorated, classrooms that look the same, a choice of cold materials, a design that focuses on functionality but that, at the end, is defendable on a practical scale. For the school’s graphic design style, we could say that it is also found in other public settings such as the streets, where messages from the municipality can be found, or even museums, as if that was tied to a Chinese communist style barely defined but more than certainly studied and, obviously, reproduced. We could argue if what is seen is more of a lack of style than anything else, but the simple fact to see it reproduced on a large scale rejects that hypothesis. For a trained visual eye, seeing these panels is rapidly associated to a certain practice, even by extent to a type of public education. At last, those who make these information panels with proud seem to have just discovered power point to design in large format, and one might consider it funny or unimportant, but these displays of messages turn the streets and schools old fashioned with all the connotations that this implies.

Posted: February 8th, 2023

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