Puns Disrupt, Design Connects

Every year, millions of people are ravaged by the destructive force of puns. But there’s hope.

And I should know: I myself am a recovering punster.

The insidious thing about a puns is that they can so seem innocent. To an overactive imagination, puns make perfect sense: we’re always playing with ideas/puzzles/systems. We explore so fervently that some of the connections that our minds contrive get really, really “out there”. And when our neurons connect with a particularly playful pun, it seems awesome.

But it’s not awesome.

Generally, most puns disrupt. They tend to derail the natural flow of conversation. They tear apart families.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But you get the idea.

Typically when a punster meets another punster, something terrible happens: they encourage each other. They’ll bounce off each other while drawing crazy connections, and think it’s oh-so-great that they found someone fun who “gets it”. Meanwhile the sane people in the conversation are subjected to painful “groaners”, wondering what happened to a coherent train of thought.

I mentioned that there’s hope, and there is. The hope comes from great design.

What’s the difference between writing good design and great design? Good design communicates ideas clearly. Great design composes ideas in a way that really connects with people. The key word is “people”, which is different from simply connecting ideas.

Great design contrasts beautifully with the general function of a pun. While most puns tear people away from natural conversation in a painful way, great design just makes sense: it feels natural, it connects neurons in a relevant way, and it’s meaningful.


Let’s check out a visual example.

FedEx provides a beautiful visual example of great design, in five letters. The logo is plain and simple. One could look at it for years without noticing the secret icon planted right in the middle, representing the core purpose of FedEx (which is to move things). Once you see it, you never unsee it: in the space between the “E” and the “x”, there’s an arrow.


FedEx, you’ve gotta be shipping me. That’s brilliant, appropriate, and it feels more like a secret that we share — rather than a distracting play on words.

Introduce your punster to this beautiful alternative.

If you — or someone you love — is falling to the scourge of puns, have hope. Introduce them to the idea that they can continue to relish their hyperactive minds in a sharing, meaningful way that connects with people.

Save everyone a lifetime of pun pain: direct your loved one to the world of design (copywriting/marketing/etc), and everyone will have a lot more fun.


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