DC Shoes: Ken Block’s Gymkhana Four – The Hollywood Megamercial – is one of the most creative driving movies I’ve seen for a long time. It’s great, I love it and I want to see more!
As designers it’s our job to solve communication problems. It may seem obvious but this means that we need a problem to solve before we can begin our creative process. This usually comes in the form of a design, or creative, brief.
Now we’ve all been there – client calls urgently and asks “can you quickly create a piece of design, I need this by the end of the day?”, you say “yes, of course, send over the content and I’ll get started”. As you sit down to produce a wonderful piece of design for your client it’s not long before you start bashing your head against the wall because you can’t think of a concept. The creative downward spiral starts here and it’s a bottomless pit.
As designers, we need problems to solve before we can begin solving them. Again, this sounds really obvious but I see designers all the time, working on projects which have no real brief. How can you solve a problem without knowing what that problem is?
This point is explained in this short video of Steve Jobs, at the 1997 WWDC, where he talks about working backwards from a problem to find its solution, rather than creating a solution and then trying to find a problem which it solves.
And another video where Steve talks about solving work-related problems with regards to file storage. It’s amazing how he is already beginning to touch on cloud technology in 1997 by focusing on the problem at hand. Again, 1997 WWDC.
Apple have opened a new store on 4th Street, Berkeley CA, and it’s a very fine example of design excellence and beauty.
The paving stones outside the store have been used as the ‘master size’. All dimensions have then been taken from this size, e.g. the window sizes are a multiple of the size of the paving slabs. This produces a very pleasing end result because everything is working in harmony. Pedestrians don’t necessarily understand why the store is so pleasing to the eye, they just see that it is.
This is the same with layouts. Designers use grid systems and various different proven ratios of beauty to give their layouts the most pleasing look-and-feel. Again, the end user doesn’t necessarily know why they like the layout but they know that they do.
Beauty is not the only reason why we use grid systems in our layouts, though. A major added benefit to basing designs on systematic grids is that the human brain finds it easier to remember information which is laid out logically and with clear hierarchy. That’s why newspapers are so strict with their layouts. Check out the printed version of the Guardian newspaper for a another great example of this.
I watched a short video yesterday where Seth Godin talks about how things are ‘broken’ and it really got me thinking about how we can all learn lessons from this and produce better design.
He talks about signs which don’t make sense because the wrong hierarchy has been used in the text and precedence has been given to the wrong part of the message. He suggests that part of this problem is that designers don’t really take ownership of the projects which they are working on. This is true in many ways and I’ve seen this a lot over the years where I’ve heard designers say things like;
Well that’s what the client asked for…
That’s the image that I was told to use…
The client supplied the copy, it’s not my fault it doesn’t make sense, etc.
Well, actually, as a designer working on a project it is your responsibility to make sure that whatever you are designing – whether it be a corporate identity, brochure, poster, car instrument panel, factory machine user panel, website – makes sense and that it works. If your client gives you copy which doesn’t read correctly then speak to your client and recommend that they have you re-write it. If the image is not appropriate or is low-resolution then speak to them and offer a solution. If they ask for everything to be bold so that it all stands out, then recommend and advise that nothing will stand out if everything is bold and offer alternative ways of producing the desired visual hierarchy. You are the professional and that’s what your client has hired you for.
Why are so many things broken? In this entertaining talk – one of the favorites of Gel 2006. Seth Godin gives a tour of things poorly designed, the reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. See also Seth’s Blog, where Seth writes daily on marketing, business and other issues.
It is relatively easy for an organisation to determine the true cost of manufactured goods – a combination of raw material, fabrication, marketing and distribution, labour and overhead costs. It is much more difficult to determine the true cost of services.
Services are labour-intensive, not capital-intensive. Their value is not so much in what they provide today as in what they contribute to the future; and comparison and evaluation are always qualitative, seldom quantitative. Here are some things to consider when evaluating how to handle your requirements for creative services.
A need for specialists
Being efficient and competitive in today’s global economy not only requires an organisation to utilise the most sophisticated of resources, but also to maintain a high degree of flexibility. The only way to accomplish both cost-effectively is to employ a core staff of managers and to supplement them with trusted outside specialists when required. This way, it is possible to employ the best possible talent at competitive costs.
Specifically, when it comes to creative services, it is just about impossible to directly employ enough talented individuals – copywriters, graphic designers, website developers, illustrators and photographers. Fear not, skilled help is at hand.
Buying in professional design services as and when you need them can be highly cost-effective in the long-run, far outstripping any benefits of trying to handle matters internally. This is a genuine value approach. You pay only for what you require, wherever and whenever it may be needed.
However, choose only the best. Nothing, marketing or otherwise, is inexpensive if it doesn’t work. Some communications challenges take special talent, some don’t. But when talent is crucial to success, it seldom pays to compromise. When effectiveness is critically important, hiring an outside specialist is always the least expensive and most productive alternative. Moreover, if objectivity is important, hire an objective, outside source.
Welcome to Graphic Design TV
Today sees the launch of a new project called GDTV (Graphic Design TV). It is a Vimeo-based channel which showcases interesting videos, all of which discuss graphic design and creativity.
The channel is updated daily with new content being added all the time. It’s a great way to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the creative industries and to connect with like-minded people around the world.
GDTV is no longer live. It was taking up a lot of time to keep adding videos and it simply wasn’t gaining enough traffic to justify the effort. Maybe one day it will be re-launched but until then…
Achieving RAR Recommended status is a real symbol of excellence so I’m delighted to announce that I’m now on the RAR Recommended Agencies list.
The RAR exists to bring clients together with the right creatives. All the designers and agencies on its database first have to win the endorsement of current clients, before they are invited to join the Register or are put forward for new business.
This unique approach has meant that major brands have worked with the RAR Recommended service to identify new suppliers.
The idea is that truly independent information can help businesses who are looking for a new designer to work with – they can be sure that anybody on the RAR list has received a glowing report from their clients. RAR surveyed several of my clients and asked them what they think about me in five important areas:
- Creativity and innovation
- Account management
- Value for money
- Strategic thinking
- Overall professionalism
Having scored well in every area, I was awarded RAR Recommended status.
As the research was conducted confidentially with my clients I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all those who took part.
Graphic design is everywhere you look. It is a traditional craft and I have a true passion about its quality – and there’s a reason for that. If you buy a product, read a magazine or book, watch a movie, follow a road sign, choose from a menu… you have been subjected to graphic design.
It is a way of communicating a visual message – whether it be announcing or selling something, amusing or persuading someone, explaining a complicated system or simply sending love. They are all forms of graphic design.
Emotions trigger responses
People make decisions based on emotional responses and how products make them feel. Anyone can throw together some half-decent artwork and have it printed but the chances are that the real message isn’t all that clear and the design hierarchy hasn’t been taken into account, never mind the true emotional triggers that help us all choose certain brands over others.
For your brand to become synonymous with your product and internal values it has to be used consistently. Look at road signs – their visual consistency helps us quickly make decisions on the move without really having to read every bit of information. Imagine if every town or county had a different visual identity system for their road signs, it would be chaotic.
So next time you are thinking about designing your own identity or using an unqualified and unskilled designer, think about the above information. Is your marketing material subconsciously saying the right things about your business? Hiring a professional designer is important.