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Categorising good design can be difficult to determine. The definition of good design can be implemented when you understand the definition of design as a whole. Good design does not necessarily need to be categorised as ‘only’ packaging or ‘only’ web design or ‘only’ product design. It can be anything as long as people can understand the concept;whether they are from the design industry or not. Hilary Cottam, the social designer and founding director of Participle, asks that ‘can something be “good design” if no one enjoys using it?’2

The Habit of calling a finished product a design is convenient but wrong. Design is what you do, not what you’ve done. Fletcher, Alan. ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’. London: Phaidon, 2001

The ability to combine both your own characteristics and personality, yet bring forward a good design at the end, is something that can be tricky to achieve. Steve Simpson STEVE SIMPSON 7UP WONDERLAND has on mulitple occasions solved this problem with ‘flying 2011 colours’. His work is no shy of ‘ditching’ the notion that simplicity is the key in excellence in design. English born, Steve Simpson is currently based in Ireland, specialising in both illustration design and chilFor the past fifteen years Simpson’s originality with his drens books. After studying technical Illustration in approach to designs have won him various awards such Portsmouth, he spent the first six years of his career as The Institute of Creative Advertising & Design (ICAD) working in animation and during that time, workawards for his Inferno Chilli label design. Steve also won ing in multiple departments within the company. gold in the Association of Illustrators (UK) Images 32 His gateway to design orientated illustration had been for his Pure Pie branding and has regularly had work when he met the founders of a design studio in Dublin. accepted for The Society of Illustrators (NY), 3x3 Mag Whilst working as an animator, he stated in previous awards, Applied Arts, Communication Arts & American interviews how he would ‘regularly change his style to Illustration. match the type of show that he was working on’1, however, as an illustrator he was able to keep a unique style of his own, which could be used for any type of design ‘when you do it right’.

Cottam gives a good argument that ‘good design’ is conveniently defined as simplicity and more functional, however if no-one is using the functional design, then is it good design? As graphic designers we design for clients and the viewers. Good design should be something that is able to accomplish both the viewers needs to be ‘enjoyable’ and the clients needs to be functional to that specific client. It should be something that will ‘never grow old’, yet has the understanding of what it is.



Steve Simpson has his own distinctive style yet is not within trend, it is something that the viewer can enjoy yet his chosen audiences can be identified. The organic feeling throughout his designs is something that will stay organic in the future. Simpson has the ability to use his design for anything yet still be both functional and enjoyable. When looking as his work, there is a feeling of ‘belong’ and as if he knows that he is doing something right. STEVE SIMPSON 2012

1. “NewWebPick E-magazine Issue 42.” NewWebPick E-magazine Issue 42. N.p., 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2013. 2. ‘Defining Good or Bad Design’: Alice Rawsthorn, New York Times, January 31, 2009




Having problems with the client is always the norm for designers, yet Simpson had the ability to work around the clients need for menu size changes but remain organised for each illustration within the whole image. Something that gives me another reason why I find his work very inspiring and has potential to define good design.



Simspon understood that producing a menu cover needs to be interesting and above all appealing. He understood with his design that people will see this from all angles, which shows with the organic busyness of this design. He has sidestepped the issues that can easily arise during a menu design with an appetising piece of imagery. When given the brief, he was given a set of ideas from the client, like having a busy kitchen. Simpson’s ability to instantly adapt an idea into something of his own which also pleases the client almost immediately is inspiring. Simpson’s skills of being able to hand-draw fonts which work extremely well in tandem with the imagery can be seen throughout.

Mic’s Chilli is Simpson’s most prized design, and it can easily be seen as to why it has that title. Gathering inspiration from the ‘day of the dead’ festival in Mexico, it merges perfectly. He gives attention to the detail that never gets a detailed look excellently and collaborates them to create a ‘fun’ yet chillable design.

It may not have the characteristics of a typical chilli sauce bottle, but that is why it has won so many awards. He has created his own characteristics of a chilli bottle and really understood what the product does. From the hand drawn font, to the different humanistic illustrations, he has developed an ‘in mind’ case study of how people really feel when tasting chilli (feeling that your skin is about to burn off).




Smorgasboard is a board game with a hidden determination throughout. ‘SMORGASBOARD is a board game for foodies, friends, and family alike. Players take on the guise of aspiring chefs as they work their way around the board in search of gastronomic success. The object of the game is to be the first team of chefs to graduate from Rick’s Culinary Academy! The loser...does the dishes!’3

The most inspiring throughout the Smogasboard design is the type used. ‘Mostly I like to hand draw the type. Especially for logos. The type face used for this project is a restoration font based on Victorian newspaper type. I think this has a great organic feel that works well with my style. On this project it also help give a more mature feel to the game. A fun font would have made it appear too kiddie.’5 Having the right typeface can ‘make or break’ a design. Smorgasboard has just the right typeface which with Simpson’s skill creates a great approachability for the right audience.

4 & 5. Taken from when I interviewed Steven Simpson

The mass growth of gaming online and free flowing gaming on consoles is something that has reduced the original and more enjoyable family/friend board games. This in term creates difficulty for a designer to really catch someone’s attention when designing such a board game. A board game needs to generate the right audience and the right category. It needs to be something different, like most designs that have been replaced by digital devices. However, Smorgasboard seems to overcome such problems and give a different appealing feel towards it, which when viewed gives a glimpse of hope that board games can still be in the midst next to gaming digitally.

Enriched with its colour scheme, Smorgasboard has the ability to progress further due to Simpson’s style. Pitching his first ideas to the client gave the board game more of a future. He states that ‘I experimented with some characters for the vegetable around the board. But these made the game look like it was for a younger audience. Something we might go back to if we do a Junior version.’4 However, having a good design and not having a good budget to co-ordinate this can be tricky to overcome. With this design, and the amount of elements involved the budget had been the most problematic. Knowing where to cut costs and still create a good design shows experience and the determination to create something eye-catching without a problem getting in the way.


1. Type Logo 2. Chef Character 3. Game Board 4. Game Markers - Used to move around the board. 5. Cards - Questions and forfeits. 6. Box - Packaging. 7. Barcode - Illustrated. 8. Base of Box (underside) - game information.

3. Richard. “Smorgasboard - The Board Game for Foodies.” Smorgasboard - The Board Game for Foodies. Richard, Maggie & Tom, n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2013.

When designing the board, Simpson had to create various parts of the design:

Having such a detailed personalized design can have restrictions in the development process. However, Simpson’s skill in perfecting this creates comfort and confidence. But having such a limited colour scheme with a great organic feel has its problems. His illustrations are produced with over thousands of layers that are converted from RGB to CMYK to keep the file size down as easy as possible without ruining his organic taste. A design that looks like a new creation of colours yet using the CMYK system can be very difficult to achieve and Simpson does it perfectly.


As a whole, the smorgasboard has the essentials which can be categorized as good design, however the attention to detail and the personal approach that Simpson gives the design brings an element of excellence. The belief of defining excellence within a design differs from designer to designer, however, seeing a design that answers the brief and the clients needs to perfection, is something that Simpson does so easily. I believe that defining excellence in design is something that you can only achieve when you know your style. Your style could be anything, but as long as you can incorporate your style and create something enjoyable as well as functional then that is an excellent design.

Excellence In Design  

Choosing a designer and one piece of work, then creating an arguement as to what determines a good design.

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