The effervescent times we live in

The current fizzy state of the design industry is a result of a dialogue between brands and consumers, says Ben Marshall, creative director at Landor Associates’ London office

Once upon a time, in the not-too-distant past, achieving a consistent expression of a brand globally was exactly that: something you achieved. Nowadays, as the consumer has begun to play a more active role in the story of any brand, the monologue has become a dialogue – which is much more fun than when the only response we saw was through the effect we had on sales.

The sheer number of channels through which we can now engage in this dialogue is what makes our industry feel so fizzy right now. The more versed in these channels and the more responsive we can become, the more we can truly make the most of the new tools that are available to us.

Another challenge will be retaining a sense of specialism and craft in what we do as, firstly, design continues to become more commoditised, and secondly agencies continue to drift toward a more integrated model.

Regarding the first point above: good design makes life better. Full stop. It breaks my heart and dents my pride when I walk down a local shopping street where the shop signage shows an absence of any sign-writing or typography skills.

Technology has opened so many doors, but through those doors come the guys who can switch on a Mac and begin making signage. Anyone, everyone, can be a designer, but it’s our responsibility as professionals to keep the standards high and create things that are more and more awesome.

On the second point, being integrated is almost contradictory to being a specialist, but why not have a company of specialists? A bunch of specialisms, many of which didn’t even exist 10 years ago.

In these times when budgets are ever tightening, it’s more important than ever to remember to enjoy the process of design. Getting up in the morning without quite knowing what you will have created by the end of the day is a great thing – and clients should feel this. The meetings they have with us should be the best part of their day. This is not my fluffy art side speaking, it’s the fact that a strong, close relationship between designer and client makes the journey that much more enjoyable and more fruitful.

Finally, in a world that can feel oversaturated with marketing, media, information and the like, continuing to strive for originality is paramount. When you feel like you’ve seen it all before, those moments of surprise and delight become all the more valuable. If you can both make the heart twang and create the desired ‘practical’ response (be it sharing, switching toothpaste, donating or any one of a myriad other things) then you’re doing your job. Personally, getting my industry colleagues pursing their lips and nodding – as well as making clients sleep with a smile on their face – is my goal. It’s not getting any easier to do, but it’s sure as hell getting more interesting to try.

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