The End of An Era? Ugly Lawyer Phone Book Ads

If you have a sick penchant for ugly design, a sad day for you is coming soon. Phone books, the go-to resource for superbly ugly advertising design, are on their way out. Oh, sure, we occasionally sift through those nostalgic yellow pages, when we move to a new place and can’t find a dentist, but by and large, advertising in phone books is a lost art.

It’s too bad, too, because you can find some wonderfully awful designs in those cheap drawer-stuffers. If you have been looking for a place to get some ideas on what not to do, hold on to your phone books. And, if you really want a nice look at some of the worst, there are strangely some really awful lawyer ads. (There are some bad plumbing ones as well, but who wants to pick on plumbers???)

So, in an ode to bad design, here are a couple a designs you may want to stay away from. On a much more optimistic note, there is much we can learn from these poor lawyer ads. At the very least, if you own a small business, you might say to yourself: “Okay, I want to create the opposite of these.”

PhoneBook4Okay, this ad does have two things going for it: the lawyer’s name and her office phone number are the largest items on the page. Here’s a list of all the things wrong:

-Four different typefaces in action
-One typeface isn’t very legible
-Headings are highlighted with boldface and underlining
-Text is center-aligned down the middle, making it difficult to follow
-Image of woman is facing off the page (should be on left side)
-Text is too close to edge on the bottom and top
-Bright, saturated colors don’t match seriousness of business
-Hardly any white space suggests cheap, as if they could only afford two inches of space and they had to use EVERY millimeter.

PhoneBook3This ad suffers from the classic center-align-everything syndrome. Okay, the image of the guy on the left isn’t center-aligned, but the awkward shift of the text to the right of him makes it even worse. Poor Mr. Duncan. Let’s look at what else is wrong with his ad:

-Black on yellow is an eyesore. Yellow on red isn’t pleasant, either. Black on yellow on red is just insulting.
-The use of five dominant colors for such a small ad is too much
-The yellow and the tan clash
-All the content text is Times New Roman (where’s the originality?)

PhoneBook2Our last gem is a real delight on the eyes. At least the phone number is written large. But there are plenty of other things not working:

-Cityscape is pixilated, busy, and unnecessary noise
-All text is center-aligned (are you seeing a trend in these ads?)
-Red on blue is rarely pleasant.
-Primary colors are supposed to be used for children’s stores and Superman. Not lawyer ads.
-There is inconsistent highlighting.
-No more than 10% of any document should be highlighted. I believe this is reaching 50%.

These are just a few highlights. It will be a sad day when we don’t have these ads to look at anymore. In the meantime, take the challenge yourself: go to your phone book and see which industry seems to have the ugliest ads. More importantly, see if you can highlight what is ugly about them. And, let me give you a hint: if it’s really ugly, it’s almost always center-aligned!