I recently developed a handbill for an art exhibition. The show opens on Friday and will be hanging through the first week of December. It’s called “Mysteries & Goddesses” and features the work of Stacy Goodowens Tabb. You should check it out.

The primary delivery of the handbills was through Stacy’s farmer’s market booth, handed out to customers, friends, and passersby. The rest were laid out at several surrounding businesses in support of neighborhood events (rising tides and all…)

Here’s the funny thing:

I visited one of the local shops that was displaying the handbills and the owner told me something interesting. People would pick up the handbill (presented near the register) and admire it…then they put it back down.

They wouldn’t take one.

They were making remarks about how nice it was (how flattering)…how it was too nice to take.

Cue the sad trombones.

We had made something beautiful that set the right mood for the exhibition, but it failed to serve its primary purpose. People were picking them up, but they weren’t taking them home. These are the very people likely to go to the exhibition and buy something.

Fortunately, the shops supporting this show are full of awesome people willing and capable of having conversation about the show, of placing a handbill in people’s hands. But,

It was a lesson in form and function.

We created a beautiful piece that felt right at place where it was displayed…just like the merchandise they carried. We didn’t do enough to differentiate that this wasn’t merchandise. Frankly, we thought it would be clear. But that’s not always the case.

In retrospect, I should have designed a simple context piece – even a “take one” sign – to spell it out. to bring more function to the piece.

It’s a lesson learned – and a fairly easy one, at that. They’re not all so easy, but each one is valuable.

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