AT&T?s Art Director Gets a D+

January 3rd, 2006 by Bob Bly

I was reading the Daily News today and came across a 2-page spread that is part of AT&T?s new global positioning campaign.

The headline is in small blue type. The body copy is in reverse, in tiny white type. Both are on a black background.

Using reverse type in body copy, at best a risky proposition in magazine advertising, is a deadly sin in newspaper advertising.

Reason: the ink spreads more on the cheaper newsprint paper, encroaching into the white letters, and making the body copy almost unreadable.

I am sure that AT&T uses a big Madison Avenue ad agency to handle their advertising — and it is amazing to me that a professional art director on Madison Avenue does not know this simple design principle.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006 at 5:25 pm and is filed under Advertising, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

31 responses about “AT&T?s Art Director Gets a D+”

  1. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:


    It’s that same old story: “Pretty is as pretty does.”

    All too much advertising is created to impress the client (or the writer/designer’s friends). Give me an old buckeye ad that sells anytime!

    That’s what we’re hired for… to sell.

  2. Dianna Huff said:


    Any devotee of Colin Wheildon’s “Type and Layout” book will know that reversed type significantly lowers reader comprehension.

    Wheildon states in his book, “Participants in these tests of text printed in reverse reported a form of light vibration, similar to, but worse than, that encountered when text was printed in high intensity colors. This vibration seemed to make the lines of type move and merge into one another. Eighty percent [of participants] reported this phenomenon.”

    Comprehension level for black text printed on white:
    Good 70%; Fair 19%; Poor 11%

    Comprehension level for white text printed on black:
    Good 0%; Fair 12%; Poor 88%

    As I tell my clients, if they can’t read your copy, then they’re not buying your products.

    Dianna Huff

  3. Victor said:

    In any media the last thing we want is to lose our reader or listener because the message is hard to read or hear. This can all too quickly lead to “No sale”.

    We see this black background with small white letters on some Web sites too. It’s just as bad there.

    Most times the simple, straightforward and clear message is more effective than the fancy one.

  4. Karen Gross said:

    Every day I see magazine ads, signs in front of buildings, magazine articles, and more, that are designed by people who clearly don’t have a clue how their “artwork” will be seen in its real-life environment.

    What surprises me most is that people actually get paid to create all of these inferior things. Doesn’t anyone critique the work being done?

    My philosophy is that if you can’t read it easily, it’s useless.

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