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Review - The Power of Design Part V

I know, it’s been two months already since the AIGA conference and I promise this is the last review of it. But I think it’s important to have one more take (five is a good number) on the conference and I also think that if there is any place that should foster commentary about the happenings in Vancouver is Speak Up. With that said, I’m happy to bring you Ben Hagon’s (of Pylon Design in Canada) own opinionated review:

The Potential of Design A review of the AIGA 2003: Power of Design Conference

By Ben Hagon

The decision by the American Institute of Graphic Arts to hold their tenth bi-annual design conference in Vancouver, British Columbia was a brave and progressive move.

Vancouver is a city of beauty, charm, and sheer natural power. A sparkling metropolis framed by great mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the location was concisely aligned with the conference’s vital theme: Sustainability.

It was a brave move by the Americans, instigational even, to select Canada as a venue. Since the invasion of Iraq, US — Canuck relations have been tense. First Canada refused to donate military support to Desert Storm II, then came a barrage of political faux-pas; the legal loophole which made marijuana possession legal, the ruling that made the prohibition of homosexual marriage unconstitutional, and lastly the decision by the government of B.C to set up safe, clean injection sites for intravenous drug users. All four political decisions left the U.S administration aghast at their closest neighbour and alley.

None of this seemed to concern the AIGA, the worlds largest graphic design organization. If this eighty-nine year old entity wishes to be perceived as young, cool, and relevant they are presently attaining their goals.

The AIGA’s mission statement is concerned with “furthering excellence” in our field; it is also gravitating toward a deeper level of function, which encourages us to use the AIGA as a place to “exchange ideas” and “advance education and ethical practice”.

This was evident at the AIGA 2003: “The Power of Design” conference. Instead of the usual design conference discussion about design and design-y stuff, the tone was more external; what effect can design have within our world. This huge sentiment drew a large list of speakers with everyone from Fritjof Capra, thru Katherine McCoy, to juggler Michael Moschen.

What was clear at this conference was the importance of design. This notion drew students from Texas, Designers from Toronto, and publishers from London. You could almost taste the enthusiasm in the air, we weren’t there for the free T-Shirts, or the complimentary booze, everyone came to Vancouver because we love design and care about it’s essential role within our world.

There is a current trend within graphic design to make us appear more important. Talk of context, relevance, and sustainability are common. More and more “Show and Tell” takes a backseat to “Why, What, When, How”. Why is this? Is it that designers are tired of being treated like decorators, or is it that we see a glimmer of potential to contribute to the creation of a better world?

With this conference as evidence, the AIGA believes the latter. And based on the attendance of the conference, there are a whole slew of designers that agree with them. The attendees list was a veritable who’s who of American design: practically the whole of Pentagram USA, Bruce Mau, Michael Vanderbyl, every educator worth their salt, the list goes on and on. A special mention should be given to the passion of the American students, some flying in from as far away as Georgia (a 7 hour flight), and all self financed, with the motives of listening, listening, and inspiration.

There was a buzz in the air. As a designer used to the day-to-day slog of studio life, it was exhilarating to be surrounded by so many with similar interests and an equal level of passion for design.

Greg Galle from C2 in San Francisco states, “A good conference gets you thinking. And keeps you thinking.” and AIGA 2003 fell squarely into that category, with it’s focus firmly set on sustainability and the environment AIGA surprised many attendees. Its title “The Power of Design” was ambiguous; however many’s initial guess would not have been designs impact on the environment. What we learnt however was that by making simple choices in our design process we can make a huge contribution to sustaining our planet.

Terry Irwin gave us a frightening statistic; graphic designers in part create forty percent of North America’s toxic waste. From chocolate-bar wrappers, to corporate brochures, to billboards, our toxic inks and varnishes sit in landfills all over the continent poisoning the landscape. By making some simple choices, we could make a huge difference.

Irwin’s mentor Fritjof Capra has been fundamental in connecting design and environmentalism. The reasons for this is that he makes it all seem so easy. Oratorally he is not an extremist, which leads to a greater scope of appreciation. By talking in a calm, regular manner, instead of environmental ranting, he reaches more people, thus increasing the effectiveness of his sentiment. His concept of waste=food is so basic that it seems achievable. In all species except homo-sapien, waste=food. Everything that one species creates as waste, another absorbs. From horse feces becoming manure, to discarded branches being used in Beaver’s dams, the planet has created a circle of sustainability. Somewhere between Isaac Newton and Henry Ford, Capra argues humanity has lost sight of this.

Capra states that if we as designers make sustainable choices (papers, inks, etc.), encourage our clients to take an interest, and pressure our suppliers to support the products, we can make a huge difference. His essential point was that if as humans we designed our way into this destructive, industrial mess, then we, as designers can surely design our way out of it.

His messages were well received by the audience and his books sold-out in no time at the on-site bookshop. It seems Capra’s points struck a nerve; they were the basis for the conference. There were many more sustainable lectures (David Orr’s being the stand-out), however the point had been exquisitely made by Capra, and confirmed by Terry Irwin and her supporters.

The other important discussion point in Vancouver was education. Thursday was student day, with a portfolio session in the morning and a wonderful symposium What Little we’ve Learned in the afternoon.

The most essential lecture was Jessica Helfland and William Drenttel’s Culture is not always popular, where they argued, quite ferociously, that design education is failing students and insulting their intelligence. By the continued practice of teaching modernism and the Bauhaus’ one solution fixes-all approach to design, and by cowering from intellectualism, we are perpetuating the circle of decoration, and not coming close to design’s threat of becoming a tool for society at large.

I perceived this, as a much-needed attack on the design establishment, and their outdated notions of craft, concept, and beauty. Helfland & Drenttel have the intellectual punch to back it up. Furthermore with their teachings and writings it appears they are beginning to bring about a change in the way design is considered.

They argued that thinking and making are not separate, that when one is producing an object, one can also cognitively consider the piece and it’s external context. Their savage optimism was shakingly inspirational, the general reaction at the conference was that their lecture was far-and-away the climax of the conference.

What did The Power of Design achieve? And why was Culture is not always popular so well received? They confirmed what many designers have been discussing for some time, that design is on the crest of a new movement. The difference is that this movement is not defined by one particular style, as previous movements have been, it is concerned with the external factors of design. Arguments such as Style vs. Content are no longer relevant, we will not discuss such internal trivialities such as what’s the “Big Idea”, or what “Feeling does it Evoke”, we will begin to concern ourselves with what does it say about our society? Is our work improving anything except pocket books or trophy-cases? Or, will my career aid my children’s standard of living or merely contribute to the contemporary epidemic of visual overload?

Some may argue this is just the overspill of a generation schooled in the caring-sharing Nineties (think Body Shop, Colours, or Organic foods, etc.) and this maybe true, nonetheless what is preferable, the slightly left-of-centre, more humane person, or as in the current establishment; the right-wing, money-hungry, capitalists of the eighties?

According to AIGA, the future could be bright; all we need are platforms to keep these notions in rotation. Recent developments such as Design Observer, Speak Up, Emigré’s recent format, Eye’s support of new writers, and Dot Dot Dot, show that design is trying. It is up to us as practitioners, educators, writers, and citizens to support them. A wonderful change is afoot, it is our responsibility to guarantee that it happens. So throw away the black turtlenecks, Gucci glasses, and pretensions, and talk to people, find out what your peers are about, and most importantly think about how your work fits in the world.

In 2003 AIGA helped show us the Potential of Design.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1674 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Dec.02.2003 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
ps’s comment is:

vancouver was soo long ago and i thought all were ready to move on. now one more... actually, not having made it to vancouver i enjoyed this review. "A good conference gets you thinking. And keeps you thinking." i think is a very valid point and used to be my argument why i would not attend a national conference as it the past it was not about provoking thought but was merely a show-off. so, it looks to me that while some might not have agreed with much that was said, or did not like the format etc. it did create plenty of discussion and that must be seen as a great success.

On Dec.02.2003 at 09:52 AM
Kenneth FitzGerald’s comment is:

The attendees list was a veritable who’s who of American design...every educator worth their salt

Wrong.

On Dec.02.2003 at 11:43 AM
marian’s comment is:

Um, I'm a little surprised you accepted this, Armin. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't see anything here we haven't covered already, except the presentation here is a bit goldeny-glowy.

And I was going to give a little lecture on the correct usage of hypens, en-dashes and em-dashes, plus a lecture on the correct usage of apostophes, but the spelling and grammatical mistakes piled up too high for it to be worthwhile (all things I'm generally forgiving of in hastily written comments, but please, when you post an article if you can't write well at least have someone who can edit it for you).

And I agree, Kenneth, it was a fairly outrageous statement.

Sorry, Ben, I'm sure you meant well, but I just don't see the point.

On Dec.02.2003 at 11:55 AM
marian’s comment is:

Ha! hyphens.

On Dec.02.2003 at 11:56 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Marian, I'm not sure if accepting is the correct term in this case. Ben approached me right after the conference, mentioned he wanted to write a review of the conference and I agreed to post it once it was ready. Granted, I didn't know it would take two months and that we would have covered most of the ground already. But that shouldn't take away from the intention. Anyhoo, it's posted and we are talking about it.

The one thought that I enjoyed from Ben's review was actually the title itself: The Potential of Design. That indeed is the one thing that the conference provided, showing the possibilities of design� if they had only focused on the possibilities of graphic design then it would have been a bit better.

> every educator worth their salt.

Wrong

You are right Kenneth, you weren't there ; )

On Dec.02.2003 at 12:12 PM
ps’s comment is:

And I was going to give a little lecture on the correct usage of hypens, en-dashes and em-dashes, plus a lecture on the correct usage of apostophes, but the spelling and grammatical mistakes piled up too high for it to be worthwhile (all things I'm generally forgiving of in hastily written comments, but please, when you post an article if you can't write well at least have someone who can edit it for you).

considering the -- so i think -- worldwide participation in this forum, l i think you should be somewhat flexible...

On Dec.02.2003 at 12:12 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

I suppose that's the beauty of this conference--you may not agree with much of it, or care for any of the messages, but its hard NOT to think about them. The fact that there have been five discussions on this topic alone demonstrates that something must be moving in the right direction. Very cool.

I've mentioned this before and I'll continue to hammer on it, but the fundamental problem I see with the AIGA party line is that its getting away from what we're best at--communicating. For all the talk of sustainability, improvement, blah blah blah, all any of it really does is pull the focus so poorly that everything is blurry.

That's not to say just focus on type, photography, illustration, layout and printing, but set a clear objective and do whatever it takes to accomplish it. BMW made movies, MINI gave away driving gloves, Molson beer used labels as flirtation-instigators. I realize those are commercial examples, but they were rooted in reality, they were practical, and they served a clear purpose: communicate a message in a memorable, meaningful way. Nobody needs a designer; they need something that gets people thinking about them. Sometimes design can do that, but usually, design is just a tool or its a part of something else.

I still think its obnoxious of Helfand and Drentell to savage commercial design rather than find a way to inject some intelligence and art into it. I have never worshipped Kalman, but I always appreciated his willingness to do commercial work for big corporations. I've read Kant, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein and De Landa and most of what H&D ramble about is an attempt at sounding like that but without the same explosive ideas or human relevance. I'm glad that they're calling for more intelligence in this world and in our educational process, but I'm far more impressed by practice than by theory.

I don't know if "design" is on the crest of anything new at all, I think design has been pretty much the same as it ever was. I think communications are changing to a degree though the fundamentals are still there, and I'm totally confident that commerce is evolving. Design can play a role in both of those things but it is not ALL of those things.

On Dec.02.2003 at 12:15 PM
Ben Hagon’s comment is:

Wow, I really pissed Marian off didn't I?

Just bear in mind that Americans have their own, distinct, (some would say incorrect) version of the English language. In Canada we use English English, and me being an englishman in Canada, I avoid American English at all costs. That being said, I didn't have my editor edit this piece and realise that it probably doesn't always flow like a professional piece of writing, but Marian's comments are just the kind of shit that stops young people from becoming critical and getting involved in platforms such as SpeakUp.

Chill out and be thankful for accessible discourse.

Sorry Kenneth, maybe that was a little too much, but I hope everyone got my point: it was a great conference and showed that there is a lot of potential in our profession.

Keep the comments coming!

On Dec.02.2003 at 01:12 PM
Brian Warren’s comment is:

Bradley and Ben are right. Despite what you think of the conference you certainly couldn't help but think. I didn't care much for it, and I agree with Armin on the point that focusing on the power of graphic design woud be a nice improvment. But it certainly got me thinking and talking about the conference and the implications of some of what was discussed.

I don't mind another review about the conference, maybe due in part to the fact that the conference is how I discovered Speak Up. Let's just make sure we stop ourselves before we get to double (arabic) digits.

On Dec.02.2003 at 01:33 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> it was a great conference and showed that there is a lot of potential in our profession.

It showed a lot of potential for design, but I'm not sure if it was specific to our profession of graphic design.

> the presentation here is a bit goldeny-glowy.

I agree with some of marian's points, I'm afraid. I enjoyed reading the review Ben, but it seemed idealistic, rather than an accurate reflection of the faults and bias of the actual presentations.

I know it's impossible to review the content and presentations of every invited speaker before a conference -- so there are always inconsistencies and fragmentation. But I do recognize the effort and intent that Terry Irwin strived for. But therein lies the problem with any conference -- it rarely meets the ideals laid forth by the planners. This conference was no different.

> Terry Irwin gave us a frightening statistic; graphic designers in part create forty percent of North America’s toxic waste. From chocolate-bar wrappers, to corporate brochures, to billboards, our toxic inks and varnishes sit in landfills all over the continent poisoning the landscape. By making some simple choices, we could make a huge difference.

this is one of my biggest problem with the conference -- the over-simplification and rhetorics of this statement. It's biased, and irresponsible in fact. What about manufacturing processes, consumer demands, resource allocation, process engineering, waste management, recycling technologies, distribution, etc, etc?

Sure, design plays a part in sustainability. But it's neither the beginning, the end, nor the control factor. Unless Terry has a chemical engineering PhD, I'm not sure how she was able to interpret a staggering, sweeping statement like that.

The fact is, "simple choices" by designers won't change a damn thing. Complex, intelligent, integrated choices might.

......

Just out of curiousity Ben, have you ever been to another professional conference? Including one that wasn't design related?

On Dec.02.2003 at 01:47 PM
marian’s comment is:

No, you didn't piss me off. I just didn't realize that here in Canada we use different punctuation and grammar than either the US or Britain. Hunh--who'd'a thunk?

I don't expect perfection, none of us (OK, few of us) are professional writers--I've just been used to a little higher level of skill from the authors on Speak Up. Personally, multiple errors in writing diminish my respect for what is being said. I'm no language Nazi--we all make mistakes. But if you have something to say it's worth your while to get someone who writes or edits to look it over before you put your thoughts out there.

Does it really do you or Speak Up any good if I choose to ignore the fact that your article needs work? Take it as constructive criticism. I think Speak Up is not just a blog. I think of it as an interactive publication, and I care about how we're perceived to the world.

And for the record, I'm not talking about "commenting," we post comments on the fly, in a few rushed moments between other things we're doing--it's amazing that as many comments make it out in as good a condition as they do.

On Dec.02.2003 at 02:01 PM
Ben Hagon’s comment is:

Tan,

Your comments are the best so far. My piece was simply a response, it would have been impossible and frightfully dull to do a full review/evaluation of every lecture, it was just my reaction.

To answer your question, it was my fourth design conference, but no I haven't been to one concerned with another industry.

With regards to simple choices, of course they have to be intelligent, but Irwin and Co made them seem very do-able, (maybe it was just propaganda) and that is all I meant.

Tan, do you think that to try is pointless, or agree with my opinion that every little helps? Maybe I am idealistic, but so what? If we were all a little more idealistic, maybe we would all be better off.

On Dec.02.2003 at 02:05 PM
Ben Hagon’s comment is:

Marian,

I do take it as constructive criticism, and embrace it as such. However it is difficult to take criticism from someone who appears angry.

I wrote this piece quickly (we are all designers and know how little time we have) and realise it is not perfect but didn't see it as flawed as you do. (And still don't).

I respect and appreciate high standards, we need more of that in our worlds. My point is that to destroy someone's first contribution to SpeakUp is pointless, it makes it elitist and therefore less relevant.

Style vs. Content anyone?

On Dec.02.2003 at 02:11 PM
marian’s comment is:

I agree with some of marian's points, I'm afraid.

What, Tan, we're not supposed to agree?

Actually, I agree with you re: "What about manufacturing processes, consumer demands, resource allocation, process engineering, waste management, recycling technologies, distribution, etc ..."

Yes, a number of the speakers at the conference made it seem easy, but I just did an article on recycling for the GDC newsletter and became overwhelmed by the complexities of each and every option for packaging. Paper is recyclable and biodegradable but it cuts down trees. If you want a totally chlorine-free sheet, it can't contain recycled content. Glass is endlessly recyclable but the manufacturers often don't want to (not cost effective), so much of the glass we send to the recycling depot ends up in the landfill. Some plastics get recycled but the processes to do so are in themselves often highly toxic, and some say that materials made from recycled plastic (Fleece, carpeting, etc.) are also highly toxic (keep them away from your babies?). Aluminum is great, you can make all sorts of cool stuff out of it and it's really expensive, so aluminum manufacturers gladly buy it back for recycling. So make everything out of aluminum or ... uh ... tobacco leaves. It's complicated.

But yes, Ben, every little bit helps.

On Dec.02.2003 at 02:21 PM
marian’s comment is:

Style vs. Content anyone?

Both.

On Dec.02.2003 at 02:23 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Ben--

Toughen up. Nobody "destroys" your interest, and Marian wasn't nearly viscious enough to warrant such a fear-ridden response.

Anyway.

If you talk about design long enough, eventually its no different than talking about a toaster. Maybe a lightbulb.

I'd say that many of the "socially responsible" designers are approximately 3-4 years behind society, which is odd since most of them live in New York. Sunday's New York Times Magazine demonstrated as much with their "famous" graphic designer-made posters for democratic presidential candidates. The styles were (kind of) fresh but the ideas were frighteningly stale. Except McFetridge's, that was awesome. Gep+a picture of a heart (Gep-Heart!)! My, am I so childish. And of course it wouldn't be graphic design-ish enough unless it came with a wordy ramble about what the "intended meaning" was. But seriously, before that, I remember designers who apparently were JUST NOW embracing the pratfall that "political correctness" was before everyone else forgot that it ever existed. There's been plenty of talk about evil consumerism, landmines, cigarettes, sexism, and children fighting foreign wars since. Almost all of it amazingly vague. The dialogue is still stuck in that rut--big generalizations of intricate situations. I hate it when people treat things like idioms, and I hate it when they approach something as what they imagine it to be and not what it is.

The rest of the world has "moved on," so to speak. Part of what goes along with having an identity problem as severe as most graphic designers have, comes a tendency to make EVERYTHING they do the absolute center of the universe. Silly CEO! You think graphic design is just special decoration! Hahahaha-HA. I'll have you know that WE contribute to ALL environmental degradation!

And thus starts the process of fixing a non-existent problem. Only a 0-0 soccer match tie would be more pointless.

It's good to simplify your designs, but simplifying a situation is really fucking stupid, and yet, it happens all the time. I don't want graphic designers redesigning my cities and sewer systems in the name of whatever Irwin/Helfand/Drentell theory of everything is big now with the rationale that "designers get it." No, they don't. Chemists, physicists, and engineers "get" certain design-related things BETTER--just because you're better than Muller-Brockman with your use of grids doesn't mean that you're suddenly qualified to redesign urban street patterns or the frame of a skyscraper. I think it was Rand who said, if you're going to experiment, know what the fuck you're doing.

I have no tolerance for people who talk about "the problems we face today and tomorrow" and limitless interest in honest analysis of current situations and how they relate to broader trends. And how those trends, again, affect daily life. Fernand Braudel was a phenomenal historian who agitated how people thought about economic development by studying the common man and his activities rather than making a big deal out of big dead people. We'd all benefit from that approach.

So what's a big deal right now, what do people care about? Well, the economy is always the biggest one but what they really mean is jobs--job growth and job security to be precise. Those numbers aren't good right now, but any economist without an agenda will tell you that employment data is a lagging indicator. Then that silly Dub-Ya fucked with Medicare, one of the most popular government organizations, for no apparent reason. We're still caught up in this bizarro war that was neither as pointless as some people would have it nor as blazingly beneficial as the administration thought it. Israel and Palestine still fight and there are still financial problems in Asia. The war on terror is fighting a squirrelly, all-too-often invisible enemy and North Korea just might make a nuclear weapon next month. Or not.

So what? When you get right down to it, that's a bunch of big stuff that's fundamentally no different than what you'd find at various points in the 20th Century. Or each one prior. From my perspective, I think people are thoroughly sick of being treated like and talked to as stupid fucking morons. They're not, but you'd never know it by looking over CBS's Monday night line-up or by perusing whatever internet site feeds you the news. What we so, so, sooooo often neglect is that human beings aren't terribly preoccupied with "the big things" out there, because ultimately the little things count more. People care about how things immediately affect them and their friends and family, and the best creative work--remember that word, "creative"?--addresses others as an individual. Touches on something personal. Gets them to think about it a bit more, maybe in a different way. Initiates a constructive response.

But, no. Rather than talking about people and communicating with them, we have to focus on these ludicrously generalized notions and theories, where we can forget that people are people and instead use them as chess pieces. Yes, this conference certainly provoked thought, but thought about what? And to whom is it relevant? What often happens with "big thinkers" is a subtle contempt for the people they claim to care about.

I wasn't at the conference so I can't make any "for-sure" commentary, but everything I've heard sounds utterly devoid of the human element. Like I've said a thousand times, we're COMMUNICATORS and its a mistake to lose track of that.

I honestly mean this: if graphic designers, if design firms, don't shape up, groups like Ogilvy, Crispin Porter, Fallon, Chiat/Day, Goodby, W+K, and a host of others will pick up the pieces because each of those agencies has demonstrated far more inventive and effective ways of communicating--creatively, visually, lyrically--with people than any graphic design firm has. Ad people realized that it was never about ads, it was about a message, a story, or an idea. Designers have to figure out that its not about "design."

I don't mean to be cynical, but I don't think they're anywhere close to that.

On Dec.02.2003 at 03:16 PM
ps’s comment is:

anyone with extra work -- send it over to bradley. he seems to have way too much time on his hands. unless he just writes fucking fast..

;-)

On Dec.02.2003 at 03:29 PM
Ben Hagon’s comment is:

Bradley

No fear intended, just defending myself and my views.

My point is that shitting all over someones efforts to contribute makes them move on, obviously not from design, but away from platforms such as SpeakUp. Which is bad for the site.

The one thing i have learnt from todays comments section, is that people are quick to look at the surface of words without thinking about what the author is saying before lambasting them with fury.

However this criticism is nothing compared to an upcoming essay I have written for a design publication, I was personally insulted in some of the responses I received concerning that piece.

I will keep on keeping on.

On Dec.02.2003 at 03:33 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Bradley, you had me at hello.

I think you nailed it with this:

Ad people realized that it was never about ads, it was about a message, a story, or an idea. Designers have to figure out that its not about "design."

But design is about communication. So it's almost impossible to separate them.

> Terry Irwin gave us a frightening statistic; graphic designers in part create forty percent of North America’s toxic waste. From chocolate-bar wrappers, to corporate brochures, to billboards, our toxic inks and varnishes sit in landfills all over the continent poisoning the landscape. By making some simple choices, we could make a huge difference.

I agree with Tan on this one, for anybody to blame graphic designers on the shitty state of the world is ridiculous. The Metropolis lady (Szenasy or something) also boldly pointed the fingers at graphic designers as the ones responsible for all the paper being wasted� this from the editor of a fuckingly giant magazine? Whatever. I have done direct-mail pieces that print in the thousands and I know it's a firckin waste of paper, do I have a say in the decision? No. It has already been made by somebody high upstairs who wants to mail 10,000 little pamphlets, so it's really not my falut. Yes, I can specifiy soy-lactose-induced-herbal inks and what-have-you but will that really make a difference compared to the paper that is going on that job? Maybe, but it's hard to care when some other morons are making such lame decisions.

A few people (including the Mrs.) give me a hard time over my reluctance to “help” with as little as that. Im not overly concerned, but it's starting to sink in. I'm an optimist today.

On Dec.02.2003 at 03:33 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Tan, do you think that to try is pointless, or agree with my opinion that every little helps?

Of course every little bit helps. But I didn't hear much of that.

A couple of people I know who were there had the same comments -- "I wish they would just tell me one thing I could do that was realistic." Not all of us can fire our wasteful clients to only do work for projects with noble integrity. And ot all of us can (or see the relevance to) integrate curators, biologists, and anthropologists into our project staffing. It wasn't just idealistic, it was unrealistic in many instances.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with being idealistic. I just would've liked to see more relevant substance.

But I have to acknowledge that the conference did accomplish one important, valuable thing -- it made people question things in conversations like this one.

On Dec.02.2003 at 03:41 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> What, Tan, we're not supposed to agree?

No, not what I meant dahling -- I just didn't want to gang up on poor Ben. His first thread and all.

Now, ganging up against Armin is another story....

On Dec.02.2003 at 04:01 PM
Tom’s comment is:

Ben, I am glad you joined in on the discussion, but don't expect to offer up ideas without rebuttle. Just because it's your first time�

If you can't take the heat, maybe what your cookn' is burnt.

The exact reason I haven't been to any AIGA conference in years is because of the idealism. Whose ideals? SHOCK! Not mine.

I am passionate about using design, as Bradley so eloquently stated, to communicate a message. How that is done is what is ultra important to me. I don't need to be spoon fed an ideal that all graphic designers should be communicating. Another shock! Not all graphic designers are slightly left-of-centre, more humane or are interested in segregating people.

On Dec.02.2003 at 04:05 PM
ps’s comment is:

for some reason i'm disturbed that we are acting like the idea that we are using design to communicate is something special. i thought that was a given.

hey armin, i know you mentioned metropolis before. did you realize that the current size of the publication is smaller than it used to be. it really was giant. and shrinking the size was not liked by everyone. i actually thought the redesign a few years ago was sucessful. one of the better pubs in my opinion.

On Dec.02.2003 at 04:18 PM
marian’s comment is:

People care about how things immediately affect them and their friends and family, and the best creative work--remember that word, "creative"?--addresses others as an individual. Touches on something personal.

Hey Bradley, OK I think now I understand what you're on about. I think this is something I've been thinking about recently--and it is something that was triggered for me by the AIGA conference. I live on an island, in a small community of about 3,000, and recently I've been beginning to wonder if the most important work I could possibly do would be for my community. Like maybe signage for the village or well-designed pieces regarding the responsible use of water in the summer, or even flyers for events at the Community Hall. I haven't actually done these things yet, but I've been considering rolling up my pants and wading into the muck. Is this what you mean?

On Dec.02.2003 at 04:23 PM
Ricardo’s comment is:

> Take it as constructive criticism. I think Speak Up is not just a blog. I think of it as an interactive publication, and I care about how we're perceived to the world.

I've been lurking here for quite a while, but now I want to say that I agree with Marian. An article for a publication, be it on the web or in a print magazine, should be proofread and/or edited. And as graphic designers, I'm sure we wouldn't let copy for our clients get out there without a wordcheck... How would that be perceived? Both style and content should be important when we are trying to communicate something.

On Dec.02.2003 at 05:52 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Now, ganging up against Armin is another story....

Ha! I'll take you and the rest of you west-coast weenies.

On Dec.02.2003 at 06:15 PM
ps’s comment is:

An article for a publication, be it on the web or in a print magazine, should be proofread and/or edited. And as graphic designers, I'm sure we wouldn't let copy for our clients get out there without a wordcheck...

sure, but usually its not the writer's responsiblity (obviously a writer has to do its best), but the editors or the proofreaders of the publication. and if this is more than a blog and intends to be taken seriously as publication these checkpoints should be in place.

On Dec.02.2003 at 06:21 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

I've been meaning to jump into the fray for a while, and Bradley's comment presents as good an opportunity as any.

First off, Bradley, you might want to (re)read Helfand and Drentell's presentation. I think they pretty much agree with you: a design education does not, in and of itself, prepare you to make significant contributions to society. To quote Bill Drentell, "in order for design to really matter, designers need to think and know more about things besides design." The idea that a knowledge of Muller-Brockman would qualify anyone to design urban street patterns would seem as ludricrous to them as it does to you (at least according to my reading of the presentation).

Now, one may disagree with their criticism of branding and corporate culture, or with their overall political agenda, but I don't think that they can be accused of claiming that "designers get it." (Terry Irwin may be a different story.)

Also, I have to say that I find your attempt to define what people care or do not care about kind of arrogant. You say that people do not care about big ideas. Well, I care about them. Am I not people? My wife cares about them (and she's not even a designer). She's not people either? Sure, we're overeducated New Englanders, but I bet you that anyone with a relative in Iraq right now has come to care deeply about some pretty big things -- geopolitics, democracy, nation building, etc. In my view, any distiction between "big things" and "little things" is rather murky, since the 'big things" have tremendous impact on the "little things."

Perhaps one possible social role for designers (and communicators) is to help elucidate the ways in which big ideas affect the course of our daily lives. In order to do that, though, we have to be humble and collaborate with the "chemists, physicists, and engineers" (and the political scientists, the sociologists, etc.). Just being a good designer is not enough.

One more thing: to use the advertising industry as any kind of model for the graphic design industry is kind of ironic. Talk about a nose dive...

Whew, I guess I'm no longer a lurker.

On Dec.02.2003 at 06:36 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

Bradley, I agree with much of what you say but you're way too impressed with ad agencies. In my experience, most ad people, even at the "good" agencies, care about one thing: solving problems using any means necessary -- as long as it's an ad.

There are exceptions, but no more than there are exceptions to the universe of designers who only care about design.

On Dec.02.2003 at 06:39 PM
marian’s comment is:

sure, but usually its not the writer's responsiblity (obviously a writer has to do its best), but the editors or the proofreaders of the publication. and if this is more than a blog and intends to be taken seriously as publication these checkpoints should be in place.

Well, unfortunately, that task has to fall on the author in this case--until such a time as Armin can figure out how to get paid for doing this gig.

On Dec.02.2003 at 06:46 PM
ps’s comment is:

Well, unfortunately, that task has to fall on the author in this case--until such a time as Armin can figure out how to get paid for doing this gig. well, maybe there are some volunteers to take that part over for now. if its part of the requirement for submissions, i'd make sure to announce it. i would offer it myself, but my problem is that my writing skills are far from perfect. i guess thats part of the growing pains of a site as such. which i take as a positive. ultimately it will make the difference between the bigleagues or sticking to the minors.

On Dec.02.2003 at 06:56 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Michael B. wrote:

In my experience, most ad people, even at the "good" agencies, care about one thing: solving problems using any means necessary -- as long as it's an ad.

You mean... as long as it's a media buy?

On Dec.02.2003 at 07:23 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Yes, a number of the speakers at the conference made it seem easy, but I just did an article on recycling for the GDC newsletter and became overwhelmed by the complexities of each and every option for packaging.

I just wanted to add to Marian's earlier point about the complexities of sustainability.

In Fritjof Capra's presentation, he talked about the new Honda Fuel Cell automobile -- which runs on liquid nitrogen, and gives off oxygen and water as byproduct. He old us that any day now, liquid nitrogen could be made in large quantities by solar and wind energy -- thereby eliminating fossil fuels forever. Design solution in action.

But the fact is, liquid nitrogen is only currently produced for industrial manufacturing applications. In order to produce liquid nitrogen, it takes a great amount of gas and electricity -- an amount disproportionate to the energy that's produced. It's also highly toxic, complicated, and expensive -- wasteful in every way imaginable.

Capra's utopian solution of solar energy is at best, 20 years away, possibly more. There's nothing easy or immediate about it. So at the time being, every mile that the Honda is driven is many times more costly and harmful to the environment than a traditional gas-powered car. So is this particular design solution a real answer, or is it just another cause of the problem?

...

Another related story I once heard on NPR about the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. He was an avid outdoor enthusiast and mountain climber who created a line of sports equipment and clothing to fund his travels and climbing expeditions. He founded Patagonia on the philosophy of sustainability and environmental responsibility -- maintain the beauty and life of nature at all costs.

But what he found after 10-15 years of running the company was that it was impossible to manufacture his products without some form of waste or pollution to the environment -- true sustainability was unachievable. With this acknowledgement, he had 2 choices -- to close the company down, or to continue, but find another way to compensate for the environmental impact of Patagonia's manufacturing. In the end, he decided to dedicate 10% of all financial proceeds of the company to the environment -- to strike a balance with mother nature.

I brought this up because I think this is a perfect example of tackling the issue of sustainability in a realistic, holistic manner.

It's thinking I wish was more present in Vancouver.

On Dec.02.2003 at 07:35 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Jose--

Glad you're not lurkin' anymore.

One more thing: to use the advertising industry as any kind of model for the graphic design industry is kind of ironic. Talk about a nose dive...

Okay, I'm interested in hearing you out on this one--here's my point of view. Most corporations, if they want to expand their brands, revenues, whatever, can't get away with just using pretty packages, in-store signage, brochures, or whatever the hell else traditional graphic designers do. That's not to say they don't use "design," because they most certainly do--but the most successful ones are extremely integrated and stand behind an idea. Think about what B.I.G./Ogilvy did for Hershey, by going beyond piddly commercials and print ads and creating a whole fucking store. What CP+B did for MINI, the visibility they won for that car and how they went beyond conventional formats to do it, whether it was putting one on top of an SUV, putting messages in the corners of magazines, or giving away driving gloves. Fallon and their creation of short films for BMW. W+K for everything Nike, traditional format for sure, but great work across a variety of media over 20+ years. I appreciate what Pentagram has done for the United Airlines subisidiary "Ted" (get it?), but that's definitely not the norm--though, it should be. I guess the same can be said for Song and the Spades. Sure, VSA might have created the name and logo for Cingular, but BBDO has pretty much been able to take credit for creating the brand without problem. It's a sham, but they speak louder. A lot louder.

It's also pretty obvious that because the advertising industry is SO much more profit-driven because of the holding companies, they'll have no choice BUT to do more than ads. It's why many of them now consciously seek out designers, because it's now more than ever about doing what it takes, not doing what you can with two pages in a magazine somewhere. It used to be that a client would want a brochure for their sales force, or a TV spot for something else, a poster for a store, and a business card and some other things. Okay, those are all valid. But ultimately, they want more attention, more recognition, more sales, more more more. When it comes to commercial design, its our job to help them get more of whatever they're after, and there are NO set boundaries for how to do that.

Advertising consumes more space, commands more money, and works its way into culture much faster and with much more strength than just about anything else. In the U.S.'s failed PR stunt for promoting the war on terror and whatever else, they turned to Charlotte Beers, a career ad woman. Not a designer. Communications is bigger than just design, than PR, TV shows, newspapers, and whatever else. Granted, that campaign sucked, but...still.

Fewer and fewer agencies will turn down work because its "not what they do," but I've seen plenty of design shops turn away annuals because they "don't do those," or shirk away from creating ads, making motion graphics, even turning down web sites. And with Mother now entering the U.S. shortly, there will be even MORE emphasis on thinking beyond traditional media boundaries so its gotta happen.

First off, Bradley, you might want to (re)read Helfand and Drentell's presentation.

You know, I just did and in some areas I think I mis-interpreted, so thanks for illuminating that. Still and all, I'm really turned off by the big talk and pseudo-intellectualism of it all...clearly, they mean well. I guess I just don't know what their objective is, and yes, I'm turned off by their attitudes towards branding and the like--it's like, the most fertile ground for change, dude.

You say that people do not care about big ideas.

Perhaps I may have given an improper impression, but I never directly said people do not care about big ideas. I also think you are incorrect in calling me arrogant for essentially saying that people probably don't want to be treated like dumbasses. My point is, does anyone bother to think about HOW people react to these "big" situations, like how they REALLY react and not just how they MIGHT vote come election day? When you talk about design, communications, whatever, I think you need to think about people as whole beings, not as generalized demographics and psychographics, or worse yet a lump that you have to put up with. The individual is too easily lost because we judge them by their position and feelings on the big things, the news stories and the like. Individuals are a lot smarter than usually given credit for, yet we place blame on "people," refer to them as "stupid," and its typically launched against some abstract group so as to avoid the responsibility of being specific.

There are two types of people in this world: one walks into a room and says, "Well, here I am" and the other comes in and says, "Ah, there you are." Think about which one you'd rather talk to, and which one you'd open yourself up to. Way too many communications and communicators fit into that first group.

Anyway, thanks for writing here, I look forward to hearing more.

On Dec.02.2003 at 07:38 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

I brought this up because I think this is a perfect example of tackling the issue of sustainability in a realistic, holistic manner.

And that's why we love you despite your kinda subversive though enviable relationship with Armin.

But seriously, yeah, you gotta consider both sides of anything that sounds too fantastic or too convenient. There's always more going on.

On Dec.02.2003 at 10:28 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

Hey Bradley--

I agree: it is not arrogant to say that people do not want to be treated as dumbasses. I also agree with the notion that it isn't helpful to think of the general public only as demographic units, or as political positions. But just because someone takes an intellectual approach to graphic design doesn't (necessarily) mean that they think that people are stupid. If I read you correctly, though, it seems that you are asking for a balanced approach, and I can't disagree with that. (By the way, I didn't mean to call you arrogant, sorry.)

My comment about the advertising industry was a bit snarky, and I agree that the examples you offer suggest an interesting approach for graphic designers. But we should keep in mind, that: 1) there are many advertising firms that have not picked up on the CP+B integrated approach 2) the main reason adversing agencies are now thinking about the whole scope of communication is because of competition from marketing consultants and PR firms. I guess I was referring to the ad industry in general, as opposed to the work of the more interesting and/or pioneering firms (can't get away from generalizations...). There's an interesting article about exactly this topic in the latest Print Regional Design Annual (pg 42). As far as I'm concerned, any design agency that rejects profitable, ethical work from reputable clients because they "don't do that" deserves to go down in flames.

Funny, all in all I find that I agree with you. Perhaps I was just reacting to what felt like an anti-intellectual tone in your original post. I appreciate the efforts of Helfand et al as part of a large conversation about graphic design, one that allows for multiple perspectives: business, cultural, academic, what have you. At the same time, I understand that it can all become a bit precious and esoteric.

I have to say, I'm enjoying all of this non-lurking. It was nice to get such a well thought-out response.

On Dec.02.2003 at 11:07 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Perhaps I was just reacting to what felt like an anti-intellectual tone in your original post.

This made me laugh because it really is true, and I always have to realize that uh, duh, not everyone knows me or how I approach things. I've always had this love hate relationship with intellectualism, etc for some reason, perhaps because of my educational background--I studied modern German history, focused on post-WWI stuff and used those studies to enhance my understanding of organizations, groups of people, politics, and the whys & hows things can go wrong and lead to terrifying results. And then on top of that, I've studied a decent amount of Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and De Landa and try to interpret the ideas in their writing in daily conversations about stuff. It's weird, because I can have obnoxiously low tolerance for people who DON'T think about "big" stuff, but I've seen enough people wrap themselves up in ivory bricks that I've become put-off by it.

Anyway, to the rest of what you were saying--

Few people, with the exception of the Tilford brothers and a few others, are as viscious a critic of the advertising industry as me. And while I work in advertising, I have a tremendously low opinion of 99% of it, finding most of it insulting, short-sighted and narrow-minded. But, like pretty much everyone here who feels that way about something, rather than walk away I try to engage it head on. I always say to people, if you're in a fierce argument with someone about a position you feel strongly about, at some point one or both of you might decide to say, "you know, fuck you, I'm sick of this." In fact, a lot of people do that. They end it, cut it off. So what happens when you sit down a little closer to them and say "I dare you to blow me off." On Speak Up, I find a lot of people who stay at the table and never back down.

Ultimately, I too appreciate the input given by Helfand et al as well because while I object to the position I bet they'd hash it out in a heartbeat on totally reasonable terms. Conversation is a wonderful, wonderful thing--and better yet when something is executed or performed because of it.

And finally, yeah, few groups have adopted the CP+B mentality. The reason that agency is so white-hot though is because it works--it can be a tad offensive (Bogusky referring to commercials as "faggotty little plays"), but its on a good track. It's getting there. But what's important, I think, is that you don't need to be a "designer" to do it, you just need to have a brain. I know that design firms can pick it up themselves, but at some point we've got to put away the artificial boundaries and settle on a singular objective. That requires a lot of "letting go," which is "the hardest thing to do" in the words of Jenny Holzer, but it'll come around because there's no other way.

Anyway...you're gonna love it here.

On Dec.03.2003 at 12:59 AM
Design Maven ’s comment is:

Like I've said a thousand times, we're COMMUNICATORS and its a mistake to lose track of that.

I honestly mean this: if graphic designers, if design firms, don't shape up, groups like Ogilvy, Crispin Porter,

Fallon, Chiat/Day, Goodby, W+K, and a host of others will pick up the pieces because each of those agencies has demonstrated far more inventive and effective ways of communicating--creatively, visually, lyrically--with people

than any graphic design firm has. Ad people realized that it was never about ads, it was about a message, a story, or an idea. Designers have to figure out that its not about "design."

To Ben Hagon: Excellent Post. Clear Cut to the point with no Gray Area.

Although, by Conviction I am not a joiner of any organization. Because, I understand all organizations need financial support and memberships more than I need them.

Having said that, AIGA does serve a purpose.

No organization is infallible!!!!!!!

To Bradley:

Allow me to address your comment in reference to Advertising Agencies vs Corporate

Identity Consultancies, Branding Consultancies or more readily understood as Design Firms.

As there are Design Firms that built their reputations on Branding and Corporate Identity and are not considered Corporate Brand Consultancies.

They are viewed as Full Service Graphic Design Firm(s) or Consultancies with Corporate Brand Credibility.

Meaning, they run the gamut of Design Services. However, over half their annual billing

is within Corporate Brand Identity. Examples of these firms are Chermayeff & Geismar, Milton Glaser Inc., Milton Glaser other Design interest is Publication Design with long time partner Walter Bernard. WB MG concentrates solely on Publication Design Consultation.

While Milton Glaser Inc. concentrate on Corporate Brand Identity, Experience Design or Information Achitecture, Restaurant Design, Lighting Aesthetic, Exhibits to include, Museum and Trade Fair,Advertising Print and Media.

Other Full Service Design Firms of note are Malcom Greer Design, Mires Design, Sayles Design,Chuck Anderson, Chase Design, Jennifer Marla in San Francisco, and Vignelli Associates. Formerly known as Unimark International a World Renowned Corporate Identity Consultancy in Italy. Massimo Vignelli's Design Practice like SAUL BASS and PAUL RAND, encompasses the full spectrum of Visual Communication.

While I will not mention every Full Service Design Firm of Note. I can continually name Full Service Design Firms of note from Europe, The Far East, South America, Asia Major and Asia Minor. Whom created General Advertising

Capaigns better than or equal to any Advertising Agencies work.

Many Historically Significant Designers and Emerging Designer(s) roots are in Advertising and most have evolved to General Graphic Design and/or

Corporate Brand Identity.

The reason given, Advertising is a Deceptive Practice. There is NO TRUTH IN ADVERTISING. It is essentially SMOKE AND MIRRORS!!!!!!!!!!

Many Designer(s) that got fed up with Advertising wanted a more intimate and up close and personal relationship with their clients.

Not the High Archy Malarchy that Adertising Agencies offer. Dealing with the infrastructure of Client Services e.g. Business Development, Analyst, Strategist, Account Managers and Account Executives.

Within Advertising the Client 99% of the time never talk directly with Creative Services. The people actually responsible for creating the work i.e.

The Creative Director, Design Director, Project Manager, Art Director or Senior Designer.

Alas, the responsibility of Advertising and Graphic Design are different.

The criteria and responsibility of Advertising is to PERSUADE. SELLING Brands via Print and Media.

The criteria and responsibility of Graphic Design is to Disseminate information. Clarifying and Synthesizing abstract ideas into

Symbols, Images and Text.

Thats not to say Advertising Designer(s) can't create effective Graphic Design.

And Graphic Designer(s) can't create effective Advertising. Often times the boundaries are blurred.

Again, the criteria for Advertising and Graphic Design i.e. Corporate and Brand Identity are different.

Let's take Corporate Brand Identity.

Different from Advertising, Corporate and Brand Identity involves Strategic issues, Identity Design must last 20-30 years or longer, unlike Advertising, which is more often Tacticle in nature.

Advertising is Tacticle because you do campaign one year and you may need to do something else the following year, perhaps even six months later.

You also have the option to re-examine, adjust, eliminate, etc.

With Corporate Identity, Consistancy and Repetition are crucial. You begin with a modest franchise of Recognition and Understanding, and that Value become Greater and Greater as Recognizability increases, as it gets attached to more and more events, more and more Products and Services. After time, it begins to take on Layers of Meaning and Reassurances and Recognition, that together become almost Irreplaceble after a period of time.

You have to be Damn sure that what you started with was right, because as the years go by it becomes more and more difficult and COSTLY to Rectify a Mispositioning or

a Miscommunication.

What is Corporate Identity ?

Corporate Brand Identity is a Management Tool used to accurately address the Goals and Aspirations of a Corporation.

However, the Corporate Image is composed of all planned and unplanned verbal and visual communication that emanate from the Corporate Body and leave an impression on the observer.

The Corporate Identity (Symbol) is one of the major influences on the Corporate Image, it is all planned and all visual.

A successful Corporate Identity System visually separates and distinguishes a Corporation or Firm from its competitors.

The Corporate Identity whether a Trademark, Brandmark, Logo or Logotype is the Corporation or Firm's visual statement to the world of who and what the company is. How the Corporation see itself. What it want to be; and what it has become

meaning Public Perception; how the world will view the Corporation.

The most important element of the Corporate Identity Program is the Identity Symbol. It is the first element of your Marketing and Communication Program the general public will see and remember.

At the same time, the Corporate Identity is the Flagship of the Corporation. It is the banner under which the President, CEO, and Managing Partners gather its employees to meet the public.

The Process

Corporate Brand Identity is the ARTFUL SCIENCE of assessing a Corporations or Firms need through Identity Development and Design, Marketing Analysis, and Communications Planning.

Although, these disciplines are very different from each other when combined they form a Cohesive unity which decisively address the Goals and Aspirations of Management.

Essentially, Corporate Identity addresses all the needs of visual and verbal Communication treatment.

Corporate Identity is Confidential. Identity Consultants provide Corporations and Businesses with Analysis, Research, Design and Implementation.

To Strategically Position and Leverage a Company for Financial Growth. Building Brand Loyalty among its Consumers. Inspiring Investors (shareholders)and Motivating Employees.

Under the GUISE OF GRAPHIC DESIGN many Seasoned TRIED and TRUE Graphic Designer(s) cannot effectively create Corporate Brand Identity.

Because, they DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Corporate Identity is the merging of Marketing, Communication and Design. Not simply a Logo.

The Research Nature of Corporate Brand Identity is more Science than it is Design.

For my own personal taste and edification. I view Branding and Corporate Identity as one of the same or the sum of the whole.

Akin to a glass half empty or a glass half full. Depending on one's view, assessment or lack there-of.

Comparing Ad Agencies to Design Firm(s) or Corporate Brand Consultancy's is akin to comparing a Photographer to an Illustrator

or Photographer to a Painter.

A person or potential client chooses either based on their need.

The very nature of a photographer's work lend him or her to create more volume than an Illustrator or Painter.

At the same time, the photographer cannot compete with the Illustrator or Painter in creating a work of art devoid of photographic stiffness, and realism, incorporating expressionism, dynamism and a work of art totally created by hand.

Yes, Ad Agencies like Photographers do a lot of volume. As well, command high fees.

Corporate Brand Consultancies fees are as high as advertising or higher. It is understood, in Corporate Brand Identity

after implementation and rollout your services are no longer needed.

For arguement sake, I'll sight an example. Jennifer Lopez (J-lo) recently hired a renowned photographer of International

Repute to photogaph her for a portrait to give to Ben Afflack as a present. The photographer charged seven thousand dollars (7,000.00)

for the photograph.

Imagine J-lo getting her portrait painted by Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell or Andrew Wyeth.

She would have paid not less than fifty thousand dollars (50,000.00) for the portrait to be painted by any of the aforementioned

artist.

Again, Ad Agencies operate differently and their relationships with clients must endure because,

their work is TACTICLE.

It is extremely DOUBTFUL the BEST Advertising Agencies are pulling the financial numbers of LANDOR,Lippincott & Margulies, InterBrand, FutureBrand,(formerly Diefenbach Elkins Davis Baron) FutureBrand Coleman,

(formerly The Coleman Group Worldwide).

Notwithstanding, the work of other First Tier Corporate Brand Consultancies to include Enterprise IG, TrueBrand, (formerly Luxon Carra')

Siegel & Gale, DeSola Group. (others)

Advertising used to be KING. THERE'S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN. Corporate Brand Identity is the most lucrative Design Practice on the face

of the Earth.

The TESTAMENT to it's GREATNESS everybody and their MOTHER is trying to do Corporate Identity.

Architectural Planning Consultancies, Space Planning Consultancies, Environmental Design Firm(s), Product Design Consultancies and many, many other creative entities too numerous to mention are all trying their hand at Branding.

However, none do it quite as GOOD as Legitimate Corporate Brand Consultancies and a Select Few WORLD DESIGN MASTERS.

PLEASE BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!!

Corporate Brand Identity PERCAPITA is more Lucrative than Advertising. Always has been and always will be.

LANDOR, purportedly earned seven million (7,000.000.00) for Design and Consultation of Britsh Petroleum's new Helios Identity.

A reported 25 million per quarter will be spent by Sir John Browne CEO of bp on implementation over a two year period.

Doubtful if LANDOR will share implementation with another Identity Consultancy.

Ad Agencies vs Corporate Brand Consultancies

Branding has less to do with design than it has to do with a clear definition of what a product is and how it needs to be understood in order to accurately and actively present itself to people.

In reference to the point counterpoint debate. The old saying, "it comes in threes." It's been forty years since the sixties, and thirty years since the seventies when the paranoia ceased. During this time a new Consultancy was born to compete with advertising.

Corporate and Brand Identity Consultancies won the battle and advertising lost the war.

The relationship between Advertising Agencies and the new Corporate and Brand Identity Consultancies was ambivalent. Initially many Advertising Agencies saw Corporate and Brand Identity as something their own 'collateral' or 'below the line' departments could readily handle either for a small fee or if the accounts were big enough, free.

Again, the time honored phrase, “you get what you pay for”. Not many clients were satisfied with the results. Another Ad Agency reaction deriving from their insecurity, was that the Corporate Identity Consultant was a threat. Branding Consultancies were viewed by Ad Agencies, it was thought, as a new kind of Consultancy aimed at stealing Ad Agency business and reducing their influence. Another agency reaction was that Corporate and Brand Identity Consultants were simply grandiose design studios with an inflated ego of their own significance. Year 2001 all of these misconceptions are dead and died by the seventies.

For the most part, far-sighted advertising agencies encourage their clients to use Corporate and Brand Identity Consultants where appropriate for Brand Strategy, Brand Research, Brand Positioning, Naming, Name Systems, Image Assessment, and Competitive Analysis.

Pioneering Corporate and Brand Consultancies such as, Saul Bass/Herb Yager and Associates; Paul Rand Inc.; Lester Beall; Don Ervin; Brownjohn/Chermayeff and Geismar; Morton Goldsholl and Associates; Ramond Lowey/William Snaith; Donald Desky Associates;Jerome Gould; Gertsman + Meyers; FHK Henrion Design Associates, and other World Design Masters paved the way.

The professionals were Lippincott & Margulies, Walter Landor Associates, Sandgren & Murtha; Soyster Orenshall, Unimark International, Siegel & Gale, Schechter & Luth; Anspach Grossman Portugal. (others). The aforementioned professionals employed sociologist, accountants, economist, psychologist, designers, marketing, trademark and patent lawyers.

Corporate and Brand Consultants understand everything in branding springs from the identity of the product and company, its architecture, interiors, print advertising, media communications, and e-branding. Advertising Agencies alone cannot comprehend clearly the nature of a corporation's brand. Too many cultural, organizational, political, economical and psychological factors are involved for which advertising executives have no training.

Realistically, I do not see management consultants competing with Advertising Agencies. Management consultants may retain an independant Corporate and Brand Consultant e.g the renowned Tony Spaeth.

Mega Communication Consultancies such as London based Incepta Group plc which owns Citigate Lloyd Northover-London,and Citigate Corporate Branding. Under this umbrella, Corporate Branding, Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations, and Management Consulting are integrated. The same is true for Omincom, WPP, Interpublic and True North. All of these power house communications conglomerates intergrate strategic and creative communications solutions under one roof. I cannot imagine Mercer Consulting, the parent company of Lippincott & Margulies, giving advise in reference to corporate branding without recommending their client retain the service of Mercer Group's branding entity Lippincott & Margulies. Neither, do I see management consultants such as, Arthur Andersen or Booz Allen Hamilton giving advise on brand and identity issues without expertise.

I see Advertising Agencies wising up and taking a page from the Corporate and Brand Identity Consultants. Integrated personnel, diversification is key.

Personal note: Leo Burnett; Carson Roberts; Papert Koenig and Lois; Young & Rubicam; NW Ayer & Son; J Walter Thompson; Doyle Dane & Bernbach; McCann-Erickson; Ogilvy & Mather and Foote Cone & Belding were the Advertising Agency brand builders that historically matched the brands built by the aforementioned World Design Masters, and Corporate and Brand Identity Professionals.

On Dec.03.2003 at 04:16 AM
Design Maven ’s comment is:

To my distinguished Design Compodre's

Below is the link to LANDOR'S FEES for bp Helios Idenity Design and Implementation.

My profound apologies for second post.

Please load in your web browser.

http://www.bp.com/faqs/faqs_answer.asp?id=53

On Dec.03.2003 at 04:27 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Man�

I tried to clean all the bolds and italics and links in that post, not sure what was supposed to be what. DM, let me know if you need anything else bolded or unbolded.

On Dec.03.2003 at 09:04 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

It is extremely DOUBTFUL the BEST Advertising Agencies are pulling the financial numbers of LANDOR,Lippincott & Margulies, InterBrand, FutureBrand,(formerly Diefenbach Elkins Davis Baron) FutureBrand Coleman, (formerly The Coleman Group Worldwide).

I'm not going to look this up, but I think this is probably completely backwards. Ad agencies make their money through handling the media buying portion of their accounts, not creative fees. Landor may make 7-8 million from BP but BP is paying hundreds of millions for its advertising accounts.

WORLD DESIGN MASTERS

How can I become one of these? Do you get titanium-plated business cards?

On Dec.03.2003 at 10:59 AM
Sao_Bento’s comment is:

Ok, this is a bit off topic, but the discussion about proper punctuation reminds me of a similar debate regarding language. The idea is that language is constantly evolving, therefore "the Queens english" no longer exists. There may be a popular vocabulary and structure, but there is no universally "correct" version of a language as they are all in motion. Doesn't this same evolution apply to the way a language is written? And if so, what will become of the people who are furious at me for using inch marks instead of proper quotes?

Remember - "Bling Bling" is now in the dictionary and CNN is sending out memos encouraging their on-air talent to use hip hop slang.

; )

On Dec.03.2003 at 12:20 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> I'm not going to look this up, but I think this is probably completely backwards. Ad agencies make their money through handling the media buying portion of their accounts, not creative fees.

First off, Jon's point is correct -- media buy revenue makes up the primary portion of income at 99% of all ad agencies.

Secondly, I don't quite understand how this thread became a discussion of design firm vs. ad agencies.

I'm sure we've had more appropriate threads on that topic. Hunt one down and take it elsewhere guys.

> subversive though enviable relationship with Armin

You know the "spooning" incident never actually happened, right? And it's not that enviable -- Armin has yet to name one of his stuffed animal after me.

On Dec.03.2003 at 12:46 PM
John Bielenberg’s comment is:

I think this quote from Bian Eno get's at The Power of Design. He might have been an excellent speaker at the conference.

"Humans are capable of a unique trick: creating realities by first imagining them, by experiencing them in their minds. When Martin Luther King said "I have a dream�" , he was inviting others to dream it with him. Once a dream becomes shared in that way, current reality gets measured against it and then modified towards it. As soon as we sense the possibility of a more desirable world, we begin behaving differently — as though that world is starting to come into existence, as though, in our minds at least, we’re already there. The dream becomes an invisible force which pulls us forward. By this process it starts to come true. The act of imagining something makes it real.

This imaginative process can be seeded and nurtured by artists and designers, for, since the beginning of the 20th century, artists have been moving away from an idea of art as something finished, perfect, definitive and unchanging towards a view of artworks as processes or the seeds for processes — things that exist and change in time, things that are never finished. ... Increasingly working with time, culture-makers see themselves as people who start things, not finish them.

And what is possible in art becomes thinkable in life. We become our new selves first in simulacrum, through style and fashion and art, our deliberate immersions in virtual worlds. Through them we sense what it would be like to be another kind of person with other kinds of values. We rehearse new feelings and sensitivities. We imagine other ways of thinking about our world and its future."

On Dec.03.2003 at 01:44 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

But what's important, I think, is that you don't need to be a "designer" to do it, you just need to have a brain. I know that design firms can pick it up themselves, but at some point we've got to put away the artificial boundaries and settle on a singular objective.

Bradley, I agree with this sentiment, but I think the point of the national conference (and, in fact, of the whole AIGA design-as-process campaign) is that designers have brains that are particularly well suited for this kind of thinking. Not because we're smarter than other people, but because we're (ideally) trained to deal with communication in the problem-solving, holistic way you describe (and which I support). There is plenty of potential in the profession, though I agree that it will not be brought to bear until, as you put it, we learn to let go.

I think in its own, fumbling, way, the AIGA is tackling some of these issues. One can certainly question the means by which they go about it, but I think that it's heart is in the right place. (I should probably mention that I'm a board member in the Boston Chapter, for full disclosure's sake.)

On Dec.03.2003 at 04:25 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Jose--

I was thinking about it last night and yeah, I think AIGA is handling it in an interesting way...but I feel like they've seriously strayed from communications. Designers do have good training in certain areas, but so too do engineers, physicists, mathematicians, chemists and the like, and they just do whatever without worrying about their profession. Time spent justifying the power of design is time spent not designing; of course its powerful, but only if something is designed. Not to knock discussion and conversation, of course.

Bielenberg--

Yeah, I love Brian Eno. Smart guy. Fundamentally, you just gotta do it though. Brilliant thinking not executed is literally worthless. We've met before, by the way, I wonder if you recall...

DM--

Fuck dude, that's a lot of reading but I swear I'll get to it all by tomorrow. I'm not knocking design firms outright, and I really don't want this thread to be about design vs. ads, because my whole point is that what we're all involved in is essentially the same thing.

On Dec.03.2003 at 07:03 PM
damien’s comment is:

media buy revenue makes up the primary portion of income at 99% of all ad agencies.

From my experience, creative work was generally only 20 per cent of what was billed in entirety.

Who wants to start up an ad agency?

Who's coming with me?

On Dec.03.2003 at 07:46 PM
Design Maven’s comment is:

Allow me to repudiate your comments of my post on this sight.As many of you

misinterpreted.

Advertising agencies, investment companies and management consulting firms have been

buying what used to be called Design Companies, plus public relation,marketing research and new media companies.

The search for additional ways to make money and the increased demand by client companies

for ad agencies to offer a BROADER RANGE OF SERVICES are the reasons why ad agencies started

to buy Design and Marketing services companies. By the end of the 1980s, client companies

were only spending 50% of their communications dollars on advertising.

This was a BIG CHANGE. Advertising used to be KING, and advertising was where the BIG MONEY

was spent.

Communicaton Conglomerates such as OMINICOM bought InterBrand, which in turn bought The Schechter Group, Gertsman, Gertsman & Meyers, Zintzmeyer and Lux, Newell and Sorrell.

Young and Rubicam owns Landor. WPP now owns Young and Rubicam. WPP also bought Sidjakov, Berman, Gomez,The Walker Group, Sampson Tyrell, Anspach Grossman Portugal and renamed them all "Enterprise" At the same time

smaller Agencies have also been buying.

I am thoroughly aware of the difference in billing between Ad Agencies and Corporate Identity Concultancies.

I've worked in both.

My POINT, they're a large number of Ad Agencies creating Corporate Brand Identity. Statement of Fact.

The Corporate Branding created by Advertising Agencies on a PERCAPITA BASIS. (the operative word being PERCAPITA)

vs Corporate Branding Consultancies is shallow and weak!!!!!

Ad Agencies do not receive the same financial reward for their Corporate Branding as Corporate Identity Consultancies.

Whether they give it away or make their money through media buying.

The Corporate Branding created by Ad Agencies is mediocre in 'message' and weak in design and corporate impression.

The reasons stated above are why ad agencies are now engaging in corporate identity work,

and shouldn't be asked to.

I believe Advertising and Corporate Identity are essentially incompatible businesses with wholly different relationship dynamics. Agencies are in the long-term relationship business, while

identity work is inherently episodic and healthily so. Agencies focus, properly,

on the message of the moment while identity focuses on the enduring. And no one

agency contains a big enough client base to afford, on staff, world-class identity

design and consulting experts.

On Dec.04.2003 at 02:22 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> > subversive though enviable relationship with Armin

Nothing to envy Bradley. Tan thinks giving me lame-ass chinese desserts is a good reward for our friendship.

> Who wants to start up an ad agency? Who's coming with me?

Not me. Maybe Bradley, he likes advertising now, I think.

On Dec.04.2003 at 09:04 AM
damien’s comment is:

Not me. Maybe Bradley, he likes advertising now, I think.

Not to give reason to publically flay me - but as much as I enjoy great advertising (some of the European Mini stuff has been great) I've hated working anywhere near it.

But I agree with Bradley's position. We're all working in the same system, with graphic designers squarely working on a large part of the communications angle of it all, while others contribute to other parts of the system.

On Dec.04.2003 at 01:13 PM