Attention to Detail

I came across this article, and it made me think. In the image above the dotted line is the old MoMA logo and the solid line represents a new design. If you set the two designs side by side someone could “stare for some time before detecting the slightest distinction.” The cost for these tiny changes was in the “low five figures.”

First things first, this is not a typography rant, I am a typography noob, in the above image I have no idea what font that is, and if I was looking at the two designs, I too would probably have a hard time seeing the difference. However, I love the idea that MoMA would spend a lot of time and effort to figure something out that at first glance would seem trivial. I love the idea of people paying attention to details, little tiny, seemingly insignificant, the things other people miss, details.

Designers and artists (usually) understand the importance of details. A line off by a millimeter, a speck of dust, a smudge, something off-center by hair, all of these things make a huge difference. Creative types obsess over these things, I am one, and I understand this need intuitively.

But I am also conflicted. I’m sure a lot of people would read this article and think that is a lot of money to just adjust some lines! Are they just being super anal? Is this a huge waste of resources? Can spending money just to make something beautiful be justified? Shouldn’t you put in something ugly and cheaper, or not re-design something that looks just fine and put the difference towards charity? This is the same argument that plagues art in general: We should cut spending on the arts (what a waste!), and use it for important things.

Well, whatever happened to “God is in the details”? Little things matter and make a difference. It’s hard to quantify the impact of a more legible, less ugly font, or to quantify the inspiration that a particularly great work of art brings. The marketing department will have a hard time figuring out the ROI, but a more beautiful logo can make the brand more memorable, more familiar, and an inspiring work of art can help boost morale or productivity. And it all starts with the details, they really matter. And us creative types, will have to keep fighting, to make them important and to bring attention to them, because, inherently, we know how important the details are.