The start of a new year is always a good opportunity to take stock of the last 12 months and to think about what you might like to achieve in the next. We wanted to take the opportunity to share some thoughts around what we think will be important this year. These aren’t predictions as such, more ideas that we see bubbling up in the world around us and that we feel particularly passionate about. We’ll be talking about and exploring these with collaboraters, clients, in the studio and well, with anyone who’s interested. Feel free to make this a conversation on twitter, in an email or call in and do it face to face. Happy 2012.
Death of generic
We’ve always been advocates of the unique over the generic. We read something last year though that suggested the rest of the world is starting to think that way too. An article by Fast Company drew on a survey that claimed 70% of brands could disappear entirely and no one would notice. The statistic blew our minds, but it didn’t actually surprise us. As traditional advertising has lost it’s power over the last few years it’s become harder for a generic brand to buy mindshare. Meanwhile brands that have a solid story and real reason for existing go from strength to strength. We always work to uncover and champion our clients unique attributes and help them claim a clear place in the world. However there can often be reticence to really stand out, to be truly different. If the projected statistic is true, not standing out isn’t really an option any more.
Do what you like
At a conference in Barcelona last year I was lucky enough to see a talk by New York based designer Paul Sahre. He started his talk by saying that he’s often approached by young designers asking what should they do? Should they learn to build websites? Should they give up their craft based skills? Should they do a diploma in social media? That sort of thing. He said that he never knew what to say. He simply didn’t know what young designers should be focusing on. He then presented some of the fantastic, creative work that he’d worked on recently. A beautiful box set of Malcolm Gladwell’s books . Some very analogue book covers . A campaign for They Might Be Giants latest album; this included working on everything from 7″ vinyl and merchandising to reimagining digital packaging and a viral video featuring a full size paper monster truck . He ended his presentation by saying that if a young designer asks him the same question now, he says, ‘do what you like.’
This isn’t a rallying cry to make everyone more selfish. It’s a rallying cry for people to concentrate on what they’re passionate about. Are books dead? Does making things with your hands matter? Should we all change what we’re doing and learn to program websites? As we find ourselves elbow deep in the internet age a lot of the old rules that made the world turn are redundant. Everyone is wondering what they should be doing. At the same time real ideas, passion and purpose are gaining traction (This of course relates to our first idea). If you know clearly what drives you to get up every morning it’s easier to communicate clear value and difference. Passion drives you to make and do things that people have a genuine response to. It’s time to stop worrying about what you think you should do and start doing what you like doing.
Cultural v commercial
You’d have to have had your head stuck under a rock not to have heard the screams of a thousand dying industries over the past couple of years. Music, publishing, magazines, TV, film, newspapers. The twin pinch of the R word and the shift from industrial to internet age (or whatever it’s called) has, as we said previously, rendered many previous rules redundant. Who needs books when we can access them online or on readers? What about TV when it can be streamed? And we’ve already mentioned the effects of all this on traditional advertising. However we’ve noticed a side effect to all of this. I can’t remember a time when there were so many interesting magazines, books and products . The digitisation of traditional media seems to have created a new microsystem of producers. It occured to me last year that the main difference was that they were producing cultural objects rather than commercial objects . What I mean by this is that these objects are produced to hold a place in culture. The decisions made in their production are about the place they hold in the world rather than purely the bottom line. What does this mean for the future of real things? I’m not entirely sure yet but it’s definitely a thought I’ll be coming back to plenty.
Give me space
As we spend more and more time plugged-in; at work, at home, on the move. We find ourselves swept away in a constant flood of information. On one hand it’s great. We’ve never been so informed, connected and up to speed. On the other hand, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning. The curation, clarification and presentation of information is already a growing industry. This is of concern to anyone who presents any kind of information. Editing, clarity and space are powerful tools when all around us is noise. With this in mind we’ll be suggesting and hopefully developing simpler, more focussed web platforms. Sites that do less but do it much better. Facebook and twitter can do certain things way better than your website. Just because you can add endless categories and ‘content’ to your website, doesn’t mean you should. Space is as important online as it is at your desk, in your house or in a book. It allows us to draw focus to the important information and allow people to reflect on it. Giving some space will not only be appreciated by your audience, it’ll be actively sought out.
All these changes we’re talking about here; to brands, in advertising, for passion and unique, away from generic and cluttered. It creates a different landscape for us all. We’ve talked to our clients about the balance between control and communication for several years. The balance at the moment seems to tip very much in favour of communication. Too much control leads to the generic, the obvious, the safe and the dull. Moving towards communication means doing more things that may be strictly off-brand but that deliver a different level of engagement from existing or new audiences . For agencies like us, this means being proactive rather than reactive. It’s not always about waiting to be asked. We’re not entirely sure how that works yet, but this year we’ll be trying to find out.