Monday, April 4, 2011

What’s like got to do with it?

When it comes to design for communication (branding, advertising, graphic design etc) whether or not you like something is irrelevant.

This one is a little counter intuitive so it takes some practice and it also warrants a closer look at what exactly we mean by ‘like’.

To like something is a fairly mild, non-contentious sentiment. It doesn’t require the energy, commitment or depth of feeling implicit in love, hate, adore, despise, respect or admire.

It is also fairly passive. To like something is to not really require anything of it. You don’t expect it to affect or motivate you in anyway and you don’t look to it to impart any meaning as you might from something that you have a deeper form of appreciation for.

A person you like is someone you might enjoy a drink with every now and then but you wouldn’t necessarily go to them for help or advice in a time of need. This involvement is generally reserved for people we have much stronger feelings for.

‘Like’ is also acceptably subjective. You don’t have to explain much about why you like something. But if you claim something is clever, wonderful, moving, scary or complete rubbish people would be more likely want to hear your thoughts on it.

For these reasons, like is a useless concept in communications.

I like Budwieser commercials but I have and will never, drink their beer. I like the Cadbury’s drumming gorilla but it never inspired me to buy chocolate.

When you are commissioning creative work. It is very important to leave your likes out of the equation. For a start, it is not created for you. It’s created for your customer. And beyond that, if your creative agency are factoring what you like or dislike into the equation then they are not casting the idea net wide enough and will likely come up with safe, predictable and derivative solutions.

So what do we replace ‘like’ with? I’d like to think we replace it with ‘good’. And to get to a verdict as to whether a communications solution is good or not ask yourself two simple questions:

Does it answer the brief you set?  And, do you trust and respect your creative agency?

If the answer to both of these is yes, then run with it.

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