VSD: The Designer's Impairment

Not long ago, a doctor furrowed his brow and told me that I had registered off the scale on a test of my "visual sensitivity." For some reason, this tickled my funny bone enormously and I went around telling others the news, laughing uproariously, and receiving only a blank stare in return. After a few blank stares, I forgot about visual sensitivity and went back to normal jokes about fleece and Northwest fashion. But lately I'm thinking that a honed and heightened, not to say morbid, visual sensitivity could be the reason that designers find life just a bit rough around the edges. I'm beginning to think that what we once believed was a valuable aesthetic sense might just be detrimental to long-term comfort.

Perhaps it's time we design people give up flaunting our talent and start defining ourselves in terms of maladaptation, just as psychiatry has done with other non-concentric groups since Freud took the stage. A shift like that could really change the game. Instead of prancing into meetings, trailing a light waft of hipness and edge, designers could shuffle in slowly, wearing huge dark medical glasses, accompanied by caring assistants. We could speak in slow and halting voices, garnering the respect of others with our obvious fortitude. For do we not rate big medical glasses? Do we not go through life as though we've just had our cataracts removed?

Sure, designers can seem to be quite normal. You see us taking out the trash, picking up the milk from the store, riding the occasional bicycle. But our lives are not like yours. My back neighbors just painted their house clear mint green with muffled warm grey-green trim. The jangle was enough to kill me. I put up light-filtering shades, but the light is bouncing off the mint.

The law office across the street recently put up a new sign. I am including a picture of this sign with this post. Notice the kerning. Notice the "U." Notice the "N." That sign is out there, right across the street, staring at me with its unblinking ugliness. I put up light-filtering shades, but I know it's out there.

Do you have the heartbreak of Visual Sensitivity Disorder--VSD? Let me ask you a few simple questions:

1. When at a friend's house, does her random collection of free computer-company software release and Boynton character mugs make you slightly nauseated?

2. When nagging your husband, do your freely offered suggestions generally center around faulty contextual design relationships, such as his plan to wear a black and tan bowling shirt with a green outback hat?

3. Have you worked long and hard to eradicate from your house all colors that "jump out at you," which has resulted in a sort of mono-beige situation frequently commented on by VSD-free friends?

4. Do doormats shoved up against doors bother you because there should be "a little air" between the door and the doormat?

5. Do you own a can of gray-green paint for emergencies?

6. Do you slipcover your cookbooks because the type jangle is just too much?

7. Do you cut sandwiches according to the Golden Mean?

8. Do you hate having to order checks because you can't bear having to choose between a "Serenity" rock and a "Beloved Disney Characters" hard place?

9. Does the poor typography on speeding tickets concern you?


If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be a candidate for the big glasses.

I'm going to make some phone calls. Once we get the AMA to classify visually sensitive people as impaired, we could really clean up with this one. And when Big Pharma gets a whiff of it, hold on to your hairdo.