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When the design is confusing instead of clever

Refine the Design, Ep. 3 - Baruch Hashem It's Shabbos

“What am I missing here?”

My mother sent this question to me along with a picture of an ad she saw in the newspaper.

It showed a photo of a man walking with a funny line going down the middle of the page and the words Baruch Hashem It’s Shabbos, in Hebrew/Yiddish, in the center. The Baron Herzog logo was on the top of the page.

Shwekey and Baron Herzog ad design

And she was just like “huh?”

So she did the logical thing, and sent it off to her graphic designer daughter for an explanation.

As it turns out, she was missing something.

That something was a relatively viral music video (it currently has 1.7M views on YouTube) collaboration by Shwekey and Baron Herzog from a year ago to the song Baruch Hashem It’s Shabbos.

If you haven’t seen it yet you should check it out - it’s pretty cool! They ( produced it) did a cool visual effect with the footage where they juxtaposed people in specific poses/actions during the work week people in those same poses/actions on Shabbos.

However, in this print ad, they missed a fundamental concept in design:

When using contrast, make it dramatic enough to look intentional. 

The two sides of the photo they used in the ad were so similar that you could barely tell that they weren’t just the same image, unless you already knew the reference and therefore already knew what you were looking at.

The half-half concept isn’t unusable, (it’s been done successfully in the past) it just needs a few tweaks to improve it and make it translate better in a print medium.

art direction to improve the ad design
ad designs art directed for improvement


Here's what I did to improve the clarity of the concept in this ad:

timelapse of ad design revisions

Step 1: Color Contrast

ad design color contrast edits in Photoshop

To really bring home the two halves of the photo - the chol half and the Shabbos half - I dramatically dialed up the coloring on the two halves of the photo. I added more warm colors to the Shabbos side - yellow and reds - and more cool colors to the chol side - blue and cyan, and even some magenta.

Step 2: Lighting Contrast

ad design lighting contrast edits in Photoshop

To make it clearer that the focus should be on the man in the middle of the image and not the distracting background elements, I added a vignette to darken the edges and brightened the inside of the image.

Step 3: Shabbos Focus

ad design focal point edits in Photoshop

The flowers are the only visual indication of "Shabbos" on that side of the photo but were dark and hard to see in the shoddy newspaper print, so I brightened them to draw the eye towards them more and clarify the connection between the photo and Shabbos.

I also removed the part of his work bag that bled into the Shabbos half of the photo, to make the difference between the two sides more distinct. It's a small edit, but I think that detail makes a difference to the overall ad.


Is this what you would have done to this ad? Do you have additional suggestions for improvement?

Vote here on your favorite variation of the ad.


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I’ve been the Art Director at agencies for the past 4 years now, reviewing and critiquing the work of many designers for both design quality and marketing effectiveness. Utilize my eyes to review your designs and provide pointers for improvement so that you can rest assured that your marketing materials are visually clear, consistent, and optimized to perform at their best.


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