December 31, 2010

By Design

Category: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:45 pm

“Art is not what you see but what you make others see” – Edgar Degas 1834 – 1917


What is a designer? It’s a fair question… the role has built in ambiguities. Both Craig and I have BFA degrees with that tout “specialization in Advertising and Graphic Design”. That’s fine. You can’t learn much about Advertising in 2 years but the 4 spent on composition, art history, painting/drawing, illustration were foundational. I once heard an Ad executive at a prominent agency tell a crowd – ” Advertisers rank lower than car salesman on the popularity scale”. He followed by explaining what the role of an advertiser was merely to “slow paper down on the way to the trash”.

Clearly we’ve all moved way beyond print but I’ve never forgotten his words. I’ve often thought how glad I am that we’re on the design side of this industry. I mean, we’re all on the same team; after the same goals. Why such little respect for those Ad guys? How could they, of all people, have branding problema? Any Madmen fans out there? Yikes. I’m seriously not knocking our colleges. Seriously – most of our accumulative knowledge about marketing and branding comes from their side of the biz’. And let’s be honest… designers likely fall somewhere between musicians and cake decorators on the popularity scale.

Regardless, design has taken a front seat on the awareness scale.  When most people think “graphic designer” a cache of design vehicles – brochures, fliers, business cards & logos – come to mind. It all sounds very utility; expresses little value. At the risk of self-aggrandizing, designers are visual communicators, marketers, advertisers, illustrators, story-tellers. We help businesses express themselves by giving them a personality and helping them develop messages… visual and verbal.

Everything we see and touch is a component of design. We dress, eat, associate, identify, purchase, connect, make decisions (consciously or unconsciously) based on design. Design influences and creates connections. Design has the power to change lives.

In 2005, I designed a CD package for a band called Eisley. A music loving luthier (guitar maker) from Connecticut browsed through the cd bin at a record store looking for new music, looked down, saw the cover art, thought – “hmm… cool”, picked it up and bought it. He’d never heard of the band or their music. How do I know this story? Because this New England guy is now my son-in-law. The design created a mood… an experience; he connected with it and as a result, bought the music, loved it, built 2 custom electric guitars for my daughters in Eisley, presented it to them at a show in Boston, later drove to Texas for a visit, fell in love with my eldest, they dated, became engaged… married. He now tour manages the band. All because of design.

Unrealistic? Perhaps. But designers are guilty of meddling in your lives in more sublime ways than you might realize. What are you into? Rock Music? Country music? Sports? The rugged outdoors? Social media? Gaming? Beauty and Fashion? History? Over the years designers have developed a kind of visual language to connect people with products, services, interests. Each of these various segments have distinctive brand faces that reaches out to patrons of those communities.

This isn’t an ad and I’m not trying to sell anything… but nearly everything you see is by design.