Alright, so I’m fully aware that most of my life I have seen things and looked at things slightly askew. Things would always seem funny to me that nobody else thought was funny. Or I would see shapes in ordinary objects that nobody else could see. I’m sure this is somehow connected to my arithmomania and has most likely led to my success in design.

That being said… I was flipping through ESPN magazine this afternoon and came across this full page ad for McDonald’s new Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap(TM). It’s a harmless enough ad with some well written copy.

But this ad HORRIFIED me.

Horrifed. Me.

I didn’t see the jam-packed flour tortilla. I didn’t see the brown ceramic plate, or the yummy spiced chicken breast and crisp greens. Instead, the first thing I saw was a decapitated torso. Yup. A decapitated torso.

The dark plate came to the foreground and became a suit jacket. The flour tortilla became the crisp white shirt tucked neatly under the jacket. And all that lovely chicken, cheese, lettuce and BBQ sauce? Well, you know.

The negative space above the photo, where the copy resides just happens to be the perfect amount of room for this unfortunate torso’s head to occupy. It took me a good couple minutes to refocus on the ad and see what their ad agency wanted me to see.

It could be that I watched too many ‘B’ horror movies in college… Or that I saw the golden arches logo and immediately associated it with an untimely death. I don’t know. Maybe the designers stared at this ad too long and didn’t step back to see it with fresh eyes?

The lesson? Everything communicates. It’s not just the witty copy, or the beautiful photography. It’s not just the logo placement or the layout. Even the generalized geometry, the incidental shapes that your layout creates, communicate SOMETHING to the viewer.

I’m not lovin’ it.