Epiphany at the Circus

Jacob Tyler Graphic Design

It started out to be a great day. I had planned to take Jacob to his first circus. I bought the seats down front, went to the pre-show so he could see the animals and acts up close, bought him his $12 bag of cotton candy (insane!) and we were ready to have a great time. The pre-show ended, the lights dimmed, and we went to our seats.

The show started and mayhem began. There were clowns, animals, motorcycles, lights and entertainers running all over the stage floor… which the size of a hockey rink. I was pretty entertained and Jacob seemed to be as well (since he had his cotton candy). There were so many acts to watch and they all had interesting talents. About 30 minutes into the show Jacob started to ask when we could leave. 5 minutes later, he asked again. 3 minutes later, he asked again. 1 minute later, again and again. I wondered why he wasn’t really enjoying the show and really couldn’t keep his eyes on the different entertainment. Then it dawned on me that what I had been discussing with myself (in my head) is the same reason that Jacob wasn’t really enjoying the show. There was WAY too much going on at once. The circus had NO focal point. Neither of us could really enjoy a specific act because we were too busy looking around to make sure we weren’t missing anything else.

The lack of focal point at the circus is the same issue we have in graphic design. Campaigns without a focal point lack interest and confuse viewers. This is the same thing I tell beginning graphic designers, as well as many of my clients that want to clutter up there page with information and text. Information overload on paper is just as bad as visual overload at the circus. We don’t know where to focus and rather than trying to work it out, we lose interest and move on. To follow my own advice here, I’m going to end this anecdote. Bottom line though…my advice to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey is to drop it from a three ring circus to maybe just one ring.