How Kim Jong-il inspired me to write a post on the value of good design


I was reading an article on GoLocalProv this morning when an image of Kim Jong-il caught my eye. The second thing I noticed was the text directly above his head, "hear top global experts."

Wait, what? Kim Jong-il is a top global expert?

Didn't he die in 2011?

Why does it say "Est. 1928" under his photo?


I eventually surmised that this was an ad for the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations. I checked out their website and it has a very impressive list of foreign relations experts that have spoken at the non-profit organization.

But their GoLocalProv ad is a visual communication fail that only a design geek like me would take the time to decipher.

It loses points for the following reasons:

  • Visually, the ad is broken up into four blocks which get lost in the noise of the browser sidebar and makes it look like four different ads.

  • While using Kim Jong-il's image is a good way to get someone's attention, the "hear global experts" text makes no sense positioned directly next to the image.

  • PCFR's name is lost at the top of the ad and isn't the most compelling element of the ad. Neither is "Est. 1928" which is positioned directly beneath Kim Jong-il's image (in case you're wondering, he was born in 1941).

  • The visual hierarchy of the ad leads you to see the image first, the text immediately above and below second, and everything else fades after that.

So like any design geek who is trying to avoid his paying work, I decided to rework the ad.


  • Added PCFR's logo from their website so their ad branding is consistent.

  • Extended the dark blue color behind the entire ad to tie it together visually and provide a high-contrast background for the marketing text.

  • Rearranged the text so each thought is visually related to its supporting image (world is smaller = Kim Jong-il, hear top experts = PCFR) and added some copy from PCFR's mission statement to clarify the second half of the marketing text.

Then I popped the ad back into the GoLocalProv article page to see if it stood out any better from all of the noise. You can judge for yourself below.


Why did I spend time reworking a banner ad for an organization that didn't hire me to do so? Because I believe good design is a worthwhile investment for any business or organization because it has the ability to communicate in a clear, consistent and compelling way.

If you have similar beliefs about the power and worthiness of good design, let's talk.