Simon Manchipp argues for simplicity in the design industry and how it can benefit the client

My partner David Law and I have struggled to succinctly define our business. We design all sorts of stuff everyday and we also work in advertising. Sold our souls you say? Gone for cash over creativity? We don’t think so.

We believe that advertising and design can work in perfect harmony, that they are perfect bedfellows, that deep down they really, really fancy the pants off each other, but it’s the love that dare not speak its name.

Designers create things of beauty. They create great aesthetic value. They may be a tad on the inward looking side, but even the public recognises the value of a ‘designer’ object, and they respect the designer’s craft. Advertisers on the other hand are stuck in the 1980s right? Ponytails and party favours surround those in the devil’s craft. Ad folk are superficial, objectionable characters that think the sun shines out of their plasma screens. There’s no way these two polar opposites would ever admit to any kind of attraction.

Come on, design has had the horn for advertising for years. All those six-figure budgets, the glamorous shoots, national exposure and a salary the size of the Third World debt. Design aspires to the impact and cash involved in advertising. While this may as yet be an unrequited love, design has long been the damp dream of advertisers. As a business, design often creates relationships with big brands first. Design has all that kudos and respect.

At our consultancy, we combine the two disciplines and our clients love it. ‘Designers who can write?’, ‘An advertising angle with a designer’s touch?’ Frankly, they can’t believe their luck. Now, this may sound terribly self-congratulatory, but to us it sounds like a worrying indication of client’s unsatisfied needs when they work within the creative industry. There’s a fair amount of talk about the ‘blurring line’. That ‘aesthetics fade, while ideas endure’, that ‘the two ways are now one’, and that it’s all about ‘visual communication’ now. But few companies seem to be embracing the opportunity of knocking down the flimsy fence between the two camps.

Clients are sick to death with the anal over-specialisation of the design industry, and the bullshit that comes with travelling to Planet Advertising™. But most of all, they cannot stand the complexity that design groups’ processes add to simple projects. Look at it this way, if you are after a bespoke suit, you want to speak to the tailor, not his accountant. If a designer is eloquent, passionate, and savvy enough to design a global brand, why on earth are they not more directly connected to the client?

Larger, traditional design groups (particularly those in branding) appear to have developed systems and processes more adept at spending money than providing an effective solution for those footing the bill. There are plenty of small design teams creating brilliant design work – Kerr Noble, GBH and NB Studio to name a few. So should it really take a 20-plus person orgy to come up with a bank’s branding?

As creative people, we are nothing but a product of our experiences, so why are the processes developed by many design groups limiting the designers’ experiences and ultimately the creative and business opportunities. If we are all ‘visual communicators’ now, why should a designer stop when it comes to communicating the brands’ messages, the brands’ offers, the brands’ advertising?

Bertrand Russell said, ‘It’s tempting to say what we see through a microscope is more real’, after all, magnification allows for clarification. This ‘microscope’, design believes, is called a ‘design process’ and it involves all manner of chemistry meetings, visual thinking and brainstorms. The process, design believes, allows the client to see through the microscope of thorough investigation, adding integrity and worth to a design solution.

But if we cannot trust what we see with the naked eye, why should we trust what we see through the microscope? Surely these pricey processes ignore and suppress one, enormously powerful emotion. ‘The tingle’. That feeling a client, a designer, a child feels when they see something, smile, and say ‘I love it’.

It’s time for design groups to rethink their processes and to extend their reach to full brand communication. Advertising’s spend has been, and continues to be, hit hard – and design’s dollar is being pinched now. Small groups are beating large ones, and redundancies are rife.

It’s clearly time for change, a time to combine forces. Think of it this way, if we worked together, if – as in Ghostbusters – we ‘crossed the streams’, imagine how much more powerful our work could be.

Simon Manchipp and David Law are co-founders of the design and advertising group No One

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