A sixty six year old English man has credited clever design with saving his life.

Along his route home is a large billboard sporting an advertisement for the British Heart Foundation. Driving past the billboard and remembering it’s message was what prompted Alec Keep to dial 999 after experiencing severe chest pain. 999 is the UK equivalent to North America’s 911 system and immediate medical attention is what saved his life. Upon evaluation by a paramedic and immediate transportation to the hospital Mr. Keep’s heart stopped and needed to be restarted. He eventually received a quadruple bi-pass operation and has sworn to abandon his previously unhealthy lifestyle leading up to this event.

Heart Attack Billboard

He continually credits the Heart Foundation billboard for encouraging him to make that life saving call. The billboard was designed as part of a marketing campaign by the British Heart Foundation after studies had shown that most people who suffer from heart attacks die before reaching help. Most of these 250,000 cases last year were caused by people adopting a “wait and see” attitude which typically resulted in casualties seeing a bright white light rather than flashing lights.

From a design perspective, this billboard is painfully well done. The uncomfortable sensation it provides even when you aren’t having heart problems is strong enough to make the skin tightening, nipple twisting pain of a heart attack not hard to imagine. The design of the human flesh belt is such an relevant image and is professionally executed with realistic effects. Expressive photography with black and red used in the ad are also powerful elements that provide emotion to the piece.

Having evidence to suggest that calls to 999 about heart attacks have increased since this campaign was launched, it seems that this kind of breathtaking design is just what the doctor ordered for people who are having second thoughts about seeking first aid.

The Dragon’s Den

For those unfamiliar with the Canadian television series, The Dragon’s Den, it can perhaps best be described as American Inventor meets Reign of Fire. This CBC reality style program pits five rich investors against a variety of entrepenuers attempting to successfully solicit financial infusion for fame and fortune. Typically, as you might expect to see on a show such as this, the majority of pitches are ridiculed mercilessly and laughed off stage.

On the latest episode, which ran on November 5th, 2007, the Dragons made short work of a dog buiscuit baker, the inventor of a magnetic badminton fishing game, and a lady who somehow invested $40,000 of her own money into a small granite stone used to combat hot flashes. At this point, you may be wondering what this television show has to do with graphic design, and so you should.

Normally there is very little design-related content on the Dragons Den, save for a few token web 2.0 entries such as UniversityParty.ca, which was severely trashed on the show but actually seems fairly hip as far as social networking goes. Another design note is that one of the Dragons is Arlene Dickinson, the principal of Venture Communications in Calgary and owner of the cryptic website for Venture: openminds.ca. This site is as difficult to understand as it is to navigate and could have very well been a prime target for our Around Calgary section if it wasn’t for Arlene’s agreeable personality and obvious level of professional experience. We will trust her on this one.

True North Mortgage

This week was notable for one main reason. Dan Eisner from True North Mortgage was on the show. True North Mortgage is a Calgary based mortgage brokerage and also a client of ours. The poster displayed during the pitch was designed by your friends at Elbowroom Design! We were excited to see our work on TV as this is the closest we’ve come to our fifteen minutes of fame. First and foremost though, we were excited to see Dan have all of his hard work pay-off in the form of an investment offer from the Dragons.

For an update on what happened after the show, make sure you check out the True North Mortage blog, one of Canada’s top Mortgage Broker blogs.

Lifestyles Condoms rides the bus

Situated inconspicuously amongst fellow advertising panels, near the ceiling of a transit bus, this ad for Lifestyles condoms was trying very hard to get noticed. Through the help of its garishly-dressed model, the ad manages to grab your eye, but it’s unlikely that Lifestyles will be grabbing any new customers.

What’s going on this ad? We see two big problems.

1. The wrong visuals were chosen to support the concept.

Let’s say you and a friend are gossiping about other friends that annoy you. You might say something like, “Too bad you can’t put people on your ‘blocked list’ in real life.” You’ve just referred to a function that exists digitally (in Instant Messaging), but not in real life. A relatively clever metaphor that might garner a few chuckles.

This ad is trying to do a similar thing by referring to an undo button. In the context of the ad, however, the visual expression of the “big blue undo button” doesn’t work…because big blue undo buttons don’t exist, even in computer land. Here is what the average computer user would expect an undo button to look like:

Undo buttons of the world, unite!

Okay, so maybe those images above aren’t exactly “iconic” looking. But we’re thinking that there’s got to be a smarter way to represent an “undo” function besides slapping a big ol’ blue button on top of a blank white background.

2. The photograph communicates the wrong message.

The man in this ad has been cast as “The Fool.” He is the joker, the guy making the bad decision to not wear a condom, and we, the audience, are meant to avoid being like him. The message is a clear enough, but there’s a small problem: the fellow pictured here is so blatantly out-to-lunch that any self-respecting viewer immediately knows he or she is in absolutely no danger of becoming like him, whether by accident or aspiration.

“I’ll never come close to making the same kind of mistakes as this dolt,” the viewer thinks. “He wears floral shirts, tacky blazers, has awful facial hair, makes devil-horn signs with his hands, and for some reason, thinks there’s such a thing as a big blue undo button.”

This type of extreme is very alienating: since the character seems so shady, tacky and unpredictable, the audience does not even want to entertain the idea that they might be alike. Because of this, the viewer has no reason to see what the character was supposed to have done right in the first place: buy Lifestyles condoms.

If you aspire to work in the design profession, make sure that in every piece you touch, you do everything in your power to choose the right visuals. Sometimes, the wrong photograph or illustrative element can ruin what might have been a great idea.