In her brilliant and wide-ranging article about systems thinking in the 2010 CA design annual, DK Holland writes: “In reality, effective graphic design is both a craft and a discipline requiring concentrated strategic thinking.” She describes it as both an artistic commodity and intellectual pursuit. Professional discourse over the years has oscillated between these two poles. From my perch in the marketing department at Mohawk I’ve seen this play out in designers’ approach to materials—alternately celebrating and dismissing physical substrates like paper.
The established designers of today will eventually give way to fresh talent. What are the thoughts these young designers have about graphic design and the challenges and changes we face? Will they reshape the way design is approached and valued? In what I hope will be a series of interviews, the students of Advanced Logo Design at the Chicago Portfolio School answer a series of questions provided by followers of the Processed Identity Twitter stream.
Speaking on a panel discussion at the recent and fantastic Phoenix Design Week, the subject was on how Phoenix could grow to become the “Design Capital.” When the organizers wrote me to ask if I would be on the panel, I gladly agreed, but I had to shake my head and laugh. I have heard every design organization, in every city, ask the same question. From experience, I knew the answer was that it would never happen.
It’s not that there isn’t great talent spread through every city, because there is. When FedEx started overnight deliveries, many creatives I knew in New York City realized they could work from a home elsewhere, enjoying a simpler life than being crammed into an expensive apartment in Manhattan or the other boroughs, just a quick subway ride away from a client. FedEx proved to be faster than most subway lines.
With that and the eventual explosion of digital choices, talent spread out across the globe, to every small town and thatched roof hut that had electricity and wifi. The world became a “design capital.”
As I started to point out that no city was known as the “graphic design capital,” several people pointed out that New York City was known as the “design capital.”
“Not for graphic design,” I quickly pointed out. “The cities that have been anointed with such a title are known for architecture, fashion, interior design, but not for graphic design.”
The audience fell into a silent zombie state. People are exposed to graphic design all around them; web sites, signs, brochures, CD covers, coffee cups with huge logos, soda bottles and packaging. So much so, that it has no special impact in their minds, so it is invisible, hiding in plan sight. The best demonstration of the importance of design, is to let people live without design for a day. Everything blank, doorways that lead nowhere and toilets that are ten feet off the floor. Design is everything.
The task of conveying personal relevance and generating emotional importance based on a brand’s Emotive Core is an incredibly interesting and challenging creative task. It provides a richer playground for creative thinking. It is also gratifying in that creative efforts based on emotive branding change not only what people do (buy more stuff) but how they feel about themselves and the brand — and how they behave as a result of that.
Consumer research is often seen as a necessary evil rather than a real contributor to the creative process — unfairly so we’d argue at Thinktank. We strongly believe that well conceived and executed creative development research can both ground and enrich the creative process. But — and admittedly, it’s a big but — you need a ‘virtuous triangle’ to achieve this: good thinking from sympathetic researchers, enlightened clients and agencies/creatives willing to listen!
Is there an eternal struggle between marketing and creative for control of the known universe? What are the issues that cause friction and does “team vision” leave creatives out of the “team” when “design-by-committee” comes into play?
The power struggle isn’t a struggle when one part of the team willingly gives up their power. There are ways of retaining control without being branded as “difficult” or “inflexible.” The process of crossing department lines is a major stumbling block in modern business and it at least doubles workforce efforts at a time when streamlined initiatives need definite and swift action for positive ROI.
This article explores situations and responses to address those comments that neuter creatives at every turn and restore balance to the workflow and innovation to the end product.