Baseball, bad calls, and brand identity

Do we launch the new product? Is he safe at first?
Make the call.

Did you watch the replay? It was a horrible call, maybe baseball’s worst ever, and absolutely robbed Armando Galarraga of his perfect game. But that’s baseball. Imperfect umpires are as much a part of the game as imperfect outfielders or imperfect fastball hitters.

Don’t like it, don’t play.

The same is true with brand identity and package design. Even today with all of our sophisticated market measuring technology, somebody has to make the call. And most surveys would suggest major league umpires have a better record than new product introductions. Our only advantage is the gift of the time for reflection, measuring with information the advantages and disadvantages of our decisions.

But even then we make mistakes. Ever hear of Frito Lay Lemonade, or Ben Gay Aspirin, or Colgate Kitchen Entrees, or Lifesavers Soda, or Pond’s Toothpaste, or Smith & Wesson Bicycles. All bad calls. But the marketers used their best judgment, just like Jim Joyce the umpire, and simply got it wrong.

“This was the most important call of my career, and I missed it, I simply missed it.” These were his words in the post-game interview.

My only hope is that we all handle our own mistakes with the same grace, honesty and directness. He didn’t equivocate, he simply called it as he saw it.

Designer, marketer, or umpire, that is the best any of us can do, and the most we can ask.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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One Response to Baseball, bad calls, and brand identity

  1. Ljs says:

    See wsj noonan article “nobody’s perfect, but they were good.”

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