The subject for a debate to be held in Brussels by the Pan European Design Association at the end of this week prompts thought about design’s future.
The motion reads: ‘There is nothing new to say about branding and design. There are just the same old methods re-worked to look new.’ It is part of a conference relating to the impact of technology in design and so presents an opportunity for Luddites to stand up and, brandishing their pencils, once more decry the Apple Macintosh.
But if you think back to the early 1990s, design studios didn’t boast Macs on anything like the scale they now do, but nor did they talk about branding. This begs the question of whether design’s influence over the latter – undoubtedly greater than that of most ad agencies – would have been as significant had we not had the technological revolution.
Branding extends way beyond the logo or brochure, however beautifully crafted – as Design Week’s new Benchmarks awards recognise. It demands cohesion of visual message, often involving more than one consultancy, and without technology such collaboration would be harder to achieve.
Branding – and all good design – combines great ideas with superb craft skills. The extra ingredient is a coherent strategy. In theory, the speed of computers allows more time for thinking, but as mere tools they can be used with great skill in much the same way that a pencil might be. When people talk of the demise of drawing, they tend to mean hand-sketching, but who’s to say a person with a great eye and good hand can’t use a mouse to the same effect.
This leads on to the emergence of digital design, a sector that wouldn’t have had such a market if computers had not hit so many desks. Where would we be without the Web?
So hankering for the old ways should be quickly dismissed – not least by the PDA. There’s nothing wrong with traditional crafts, far from it, but let’s look forward rather than back.