Clichés can help to cross international boundaries

With regard to Pamela Buxton’s piece on design clichés (DW 7 March), creativity and originality don’t always move hand in hand.

With regard to Pamela Buxton’s piece on design clichés (DW 7 March), creativity and originality don’t always move hand in hand. A few designers managed to make them synonymous; maybe every designer does once in a lifetime. But most of the time, for most of our clients, we’re really being paid to get a message across. Imagination and flair yes – creativity? Well maybe, sometimes.

And in an age where you listen to the radio via your computer, send text messages through your telephone, fly across the world at the speed of a bullet and load movies into the slot where the CDs used to go – something’s got to give, if we are to understand each other.

‘International’ images of people shaking hands neatly presented in metallic duo tones and a PhotoShop blur do have a value. Because they are clichés.

They, along with many of the many other ‘clichés’, help signpost the Spanish-speaking businessman to the city in Mandarin-speaking Asia, where he can get his microwaves built.

Clichés help the Russian speaking shopper, browsing a mall in downtown Los Angeles work out if the premium English brand aerosol is deodorant or fabric freshener.

Personally, I always buy the cat food that features the cat most resembling mine.

OK, so this doesn’t mean designers have to present all the clichés in exactly the same way time after time. Isn’t that where imagination comes in to save us all from mediocrity.

Symbols, visual language, icons, style clues, idioms, messages – dare I add clichés – aren’t they the lifeblood of our profession?

Peter Walker

Managing director

WPA London

London N1

peter@wpadesign.com

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