Sunday, July 8, 2012

When Graphic Design Hurts

I generally don't like to get negative on this site very often, but I've been looking at a lot of cards for the past few weeks as I've been getting things back in order, and some things have been too glaring to ignore, so here goes:

From this moment on, I will not be building any card sets that I find to be an insult to my sense of aesthetics, unless they are so awful that it's actually funny.

Now, I'm actually a pretty open-minded guy about this. I love 1991 Fleer (and '92 has grown on me), I'm building the first 3 Sportflics sets, and I think '72 and '75 Topps are classics. However, there are just some things I can't abide by.

Let's start with the biggest "warning shot" in the history of bad card design, the 1994 Score Rookie/Traded set. I'll give you a minute to sit with this cosmic accident of "hey, textures BECAUSE WE CAN", which nostalgically recalls 1990 Donruss even though that's pretty heinous too, before we move onto the big 'un.


1995 Score. Boom. There it is. Not even a huge, red, mean-looking Jose Canseco can save this card. Someone at Pinnacle Brands was on a lot of coke and discovered Quark Express around this point in time. I won't hurt you further by showing you the gold foil version of this design. The really sad thing about this is that Score Summit Edition, released the same year, is a great looking set. There was no reason for this to happen, beyond justifying the design department's pimped-out Mac that couldn't run Angry Birds nowadays.

There was a lot of awful graphic design work done around this time, don't get me wrong (you'll note that I'm not going to blow up your screens or your brains with 1995 Fleer), and plenty of it happened in cards. I don't mean to keep picking on Score, who did what I feel were 9 decent-looking base sets in baseball during their 11 year run, but well, I've been in the Score box since last night, and some of this is rough.

After '95, Score toned it down and released a set that looks like Summit Edition in '96 (decent enough), a beautiful set in '98 with a very minimalist, all white design, and then the Quark demons got them again on their last regular issue baseball set in '98...

For those of you keeping count, that's 3 different not-very-readable fonts (not counting the logo font) on the front of the card, more of that asymmetrical, blocky thing that everyone was abusing when they first got Macs, and for the 2nd time out of 3 Score designs that I've posted here, they left the player's position off of the front of the card. This may look like a minor offense in terms of bad design to you, but it's only because you saw the first 2 cards before you got here.

So, I took 2 complete sets and 1 update set off of my Want List, just by going through the Score boxes. I also passed on Topps Heritage this year because the execution of the '63 design (one of my least favorite Topps designs) was really poor (and having looked at a lot of the Upper Deck Vintage year where they did a wholesale ripoff of '63 Topps last night, it became even more glaring how bad Heritage is this year), I won't be finishing that near-complete 1998 Skybox Dugout Axcess set I assembled from a box lot a while back, and more offenders will be coming off the list (or not joining it in the first place) as I continue to sort things out over here.

What are some of your least-favorite card designs? Do you disagree with me on any of the ones I slagged here? Finally, how do you reconcile that chronic sense of completism that collectors have with forays into the "OH GOD NO IT HURTS MAKE IT STOP" school of graphic design?


  1. I kinda like 1995 Score. You don't see many borders with the same colors as an actual field. The printing dots and ubiquitous '90s 'torn' edges did not age well though. Score had a lot of clunkers after their brilliant '88 set though.

    One thing I despise more than anything is red borders. They burn my eyes. I got a box of '90 Donruss from my mom for Christmas one year back in college and I actually returned it. Those are the last cards she's ever gonna buy me too so that wasn't the smartest move on my part.

  2. I don't mind the "border the color of the field" thing, but in their case it was too light and in '02 Topps case, it was off, too dark, and just uuuuuugly. '02 Topps is on notice right now, despite my apparent desire to complete as many Topps sets as I can.

    I've got a '90 Donruss factory set here that I picked up for a few bucks, and I endure it for Bernie. The MVP cards from that year are in the "so bad it's hilarious" category for me, as well.

    And yeah, dude, harsh thing to do to your moms! I don't think any of us have been as nice to our mother as we should've been, and some of us (hi, right here) have been downright, regrettably awful on occasion, but to hurt the woman's feelings over a trivial matter like '90 Donruss? You should dress up as a 1990 Donruss MVP Von Hayes card and go to her house to apologize for being a dick when you were in college, if she's still with us!

  3. You didn't even show the worst set of 1995 - that godawful Fleer monstrosity. And the Score Rookie Traded set actually looks much better in the gold parallel.


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